Molecular motors

Abstract

Life implies movement. Most forms of movement in the living world are powered by tiny protein machines known as molecular motors. Among the best known are motors that use sophisticated intramolecular amplification mechanisms to take nanometre steps along protein tracks in the cytoplasm. These motors transport a wide variety of cargo, power cell locomotion, drive cell division and, when combined in large ensembles, allow organisms to move. Motor defects can lead to severe diseases or may even be lethal. Basic principles of motor design and mechanism have now been derived, and an understanding of their complex cellular roles is emerging.

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Figure 1: Representative cytoskeletal motors.
Figure 2: Schematic rendition of the intramolecular communication within one motor domain each of myosin, kinesin and dynein, and translation into a conformational change that leads to movement.
Figure 3: Types of motor-cargo linkage.
Figure 4: Schematic overview of the dynein–dynactin complex.
Figure 5: Role of cytoskeletal motors beyond membrane transport.

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Acknowledgements

Space limitations imposed a strict limit on the number of references. We apologize to all authors who made significant contributions to the field but whose work is not cited. Our work is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie.

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Correspondence to Manfred Schliwa.

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Schliwa, M., Woehlke, G. Molecular motors. Nature 422, 759–765 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01601

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