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Transport and self-organization across different length scales powered by motor proteins and programmed by DNA


In eukaryotic cells, cargo is transported on self-organized networks of microtubule trackways by kinesin and dynein motor proteins1,2. Synthetic microtubule networks have previously been assembled in vitro3,4,5, and microtubules have been used as shuttles to carry cargoes on lithographically defined tracks consisting of surface-bound kinesin motors6,7. Here, we show that molecular signals can be used to program both the architecture and the operation of a self-organized transport system that is based on kinesin and microtubules and spans three orders of magnitude in length scale. A single motor protein, dimeric kinesin-18, is conjugated to various DNA nanostructures to accomplish different tasks. Instructions encoded into the DNA sequences are used to direct the assembly of a polar array of microtubules and can be used to control the loading, active concentration and unloading of cargo on this track network, or to trigger the disassembly of the network.

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Figure 1: The self-organized transport system.
Figure 2: Operation of the transport system.
Figure 3: Controlled aster disassembly.


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The authors thank J. Yajima (Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo) for protein design and plasmid production, and M. Alonso, D. R. Drummond and M. Katsuki (Centre for Mechanochemical Cell Biology, Warwick University Medical School) for assistance with protein production and purification. This research was supported by a Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant EP/G037930/1, a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant BB/G019118/1 and a Royal Society–Wolfson Research Merit Award (to A.J.T.).

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Experiments were designed by A.J.M.W. with input from C.S.C., H.M.J.C., R.A.C. and A.J.T. Experiments were performed by A.J.M.W. Data were interpreted and the manuscript written by A.J.M.W. and A.J.T., with assistance from all other authors.

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Correspondence to Andrew J. Turberfield.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Wollman, A., Sanchez-Cano, C., Carstairs, H. et al. Transport and self-organization across different length scales powered by motor proteins and programmed by DNA. Nature Nanotech 9, 44–47 (2014).

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