But now scientists have discovered the unique "drunken sailor" gait of dynein, a protein that is critical for the function of every cell in the body and whose malfunction has been associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's disease.
The research, which was led by Samara Reck-Peterson of Harvard Medical School and partially conducted in the MBL Physiology Course, received advance online publication this week in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Found in all of our cells, dynein is one of three types of "motor proteins": tiny molecular machines that are constantly working to shuttle materials needed to keep cells alive, allow cells to move and divide, and talk to their neighbors. All three models of motor protein (dynein, myosin, and kinesin) are "two-footed" and use the energy from breaking chemical bonds to generate movement.
"The myosin and kinesin motors work by walking more or less like we do: one foot in front of the other in a straight line," says Reck-Peterson. "We have discovered that the third motor model, dynein, appears to be different. Its two feet are at times uncoordinated and often veer from side to side (think drunken sailor). This mode of walking makes the dynein motor unique and may allow it to navigate obstacles while performing its transport functions in cells. Interestingly, our data also suggest that the dynein motor becomes more coordinated when it is hauling something large, implying that the motor can become more efficient when necessary."
Although this discovery is but a "first step," deciphering the walking mechanism of dynein may one day shed light on the molecular basis of neurodegenerative disease, Reck-Peterson says.
Co-authors Elizabeth Villa of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and David Wu of UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine were students in the 2007 MBL Physiology Course. There, they began writing custom software code to analyze molecular movement by "two-dimensional particle tracking," which was used in this research.
Reck-Peterson is also an alumna of the MBL Physiology Course as a student (1994) teaching assistant (1997, 1998, 2005) and instructor (2008). "The course has had a major impact on my scientific career," she says. "I would say it is the reason I am doing science today!"
Citation: Qiu W., Derr ND, Goodman BS, Villa E, Wu D, Shih W, and Reck-Peterson SL (2012) Dynein achieves processive motion using both stochastic and coordinated stepping. Nature Struct. & Mol. Biol. doi:10.1038/nsmb.2205.
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation.
Diana Kenney | EurekAlert!
Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria
23.05.2017 | Rice University
Discovery of an alga's 'dictionary of genes' could lead to advances in biofuels, medicine
23.05.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering