One main role of intracellular motility is the need to transport materials between organelles or different parts of the cell. For a review see . A special type of transport in neurons is the axonal transport of cargo, based on the microtubule network. There are two different speeds of transport: a slow type, which is responsible for transport of proteins and enzymes and a fast transport that moves vesicles mainly containing neurotransmitters. These vesicles are produced in the cell soma and subsequently transported through the axon to the point where they are needed: the synapses, which occurs via anterograde transport by kinesin moving on tubulin. Other molecules, such as metabolic products, membrane material, and nerve growth factors are transported in the opposite, retrograde direction, via dynein moving on tubulin .
The McKenney Lab at the University of California, Davis is interested in how cells internally organize using molecular motor proteins, with a focus on the microtubule cytoskeleton and the motor proteins that use this filament system for transport (kinesins and dyneins). Topics of interest include allosteric regulation of motor protein movement, how motor activity is balanced and coordinated, and how dysfunction in motor activity leads to human diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration.
The Leica TCS SPE II is a high-resolution spectral confocal microscope, which has allowed the McKenney lab to uncover novel insights into the localization and function of proteins that regulate molecular motor transport, crucial for neuronal function .
- Kolomeisky AB: “Motor Proteins and Molecular Motors: How to Operate Machines at Nanoscale.” J Phys Condens Matter. 25/46 Nov 20 (2013)
- Millecamps S & Julien JP: “Axonal transport deficits and neurodegenerative diseases” Nature Reviews Neuroscience volume 14, pages 161–176 (2013)
- Tan R, Lam AJ, Tan T, Han J, Nowakowski DW, Vershinin M, Simo S, Ori-McKenney KM, McKenney RJ: “Microtubules Gate Tau Condensation to Spatially Regulate Microtubule Functions” Nature Cell Biology (accepted)