May 16, 2022

New publication from the Verhey Lab!


Kinesins drive the transport of cellular cargoes as they walk along microtubule tracks; however, recent work has suggested that the physical act of kinesins walking along microtubules can stress the microtubule lattice. Here, we describe a kinesin-1 KIF5C mutant with an increased ability to generate damage sites in the microtubule lattice as compared with the wild-type motor. The expression of the mutant motor in cultured cells resulted in microtubule breakage and fragmentation, suggesting that kinesin-1 variants with increased damage activity would have been selected against during evolution. The increased ability to damage microtubules is not due to the enhanced motility properties of the mutant motor, as the expression of the kinesin-3 motor KIF1A, which has similar single-motor motility properties, also caused increased microtubule pausing, bending, and buckling but not breakage. In cells, motor-induced microtubule breakage could not be prevented by increased α-tubulin K40 acetylation, a post-translational modification known to increase microtubule flexibility. In vitro, lattice damage induced by wild-type KIF5C was repaired by soluble tubulin and resulted in increased rescues and overall microtubule growth, whereas lattice damage induced by the KIF5C mutant resulted in larger repair sites that made the microtubule vulnerable to breakage and fragmentation when under mechanical stress. These results demonstrate that kinesin-1 motility causes defects in and damage to the microtubule lattice in cells. While cells have the capacity to repair lattice damage, conditions that exceed this capacity result in microtubule breakage and fragmentation and may contribute to human disease.