Kinesin heavy chain: Biological Overview | Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

Gene name - Kinesin heavy chain

Synonyms -

Cytological map position - 53A1--2

Function - vesicular transport motor protein

Keywords - cytoskeleton, axonal transport, mechanosensory bristles, oogenesis

Symbol - Khc

FlyBase ID: FBgn0001308

Genetic map position -

Classification - kinesin motor domain signature

Cellular location - cytoplasmic

NCBI links: Precomputed Blast | Entrez Gene

Recent literature
Winkler, F., Gummalla, M., Kunneke, L., Lv, Z., Zippelius, A., Aspelmeier, T. and Grosshans, J. (2015). Fluctuation analysis of centrosomes reveals a cortical function of Kinesin-1. Biophys J 109: 856-868. PubMed ID: 26331244
The actin and microtubule networks form the dynamic cytoskeleton. Network dynamics is driven by molecular motors applying force onto the networks and the interactions between the networks. This study assayed the dynamics of centrosomes in the scale of seconds as a proxy for the movement of microtubule asters. This assay was designed to detect the role of specific motors and of network interaction. During interphase of syncytial embryos of Drosophila, cortical actin and the microtubule network depend on each other. Centrosomes induce cortical actin to form caps, whereas F-actin anchors microtubules to the cortex. In addition, lateral interactions between microtubule asters are assumed to be important for regular spatial organization of the syncytial embryo. This study recorded the movement of centrosomes at 1 Hz and analyzed their fluctuations. F-actin was found to be required for directional movements during initial centrosome pair separation. By analysis of mutant and drug-injected embryos, it was found that the fluctuations were suppressed by both cortical actin and microtubules. Surprisingly, the microtubule motor Kinesin-1 also suppressed fluctuations to a similar degree as F-actin. Kinesin-1 may mediate linkage of the microtubule (+)-ends to the actin cortex. Consistent with this model is that finding that Kinesin-1-GFP accumulates at the cortical actin caps.

Melkov, A., Simchoni, Y., Alcalay, Y. and Abdu, U. (2015). Dynamic microtubule organization and mitochondrial transport are regulated by distinct Kinesin-1 pathways. Biol Open [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 26581590
The microtubule (MT) plus-end motor kinesin heavy chain (Khc) is well known for its role in long distance cargo transport. Recent evidence showed that Khc is also required for the organization of the cellular MT network by mediating MT sliding. This study found that mutations in Khc and the gene of its adaptor protein, kinesin light chain (Klc) resulted in identical bristle morphology defects, with the upper part of the bristle being thinner and flatter than normal and failing to taper towards the bristle tip. Bristle mitochondria transport was shown to require Khc but not Klc as a competing force to dynein heavy chain (Dhc). Surprisingly, Dhc was demonstrated to be the primary motor for both anterograde and retrograde fast mitochondria transport. The upper part of Khc and Klc mutant bristles lacked stable MTs. When following dynamic MT polymerization via the use of GFP-tagged end-binding protein 1 (EB1), it was noted that at Khc and Klc mutant bristle tips, dynamic MTs significantly deviated from the bristle parallel growth axis, relative to wild-type bristles. GFP-EB1 failed to concentrate as a focus at the tip of Khc and Klc mutant bristles. It is proposed that the failure of bristle tapering is due to defects in directing dynamic MTs at the growing tip. Thus, this study revealed a new function for Khc and Klc in directing dynamic MTs during polarized cell growth. Moreover, this study has demonstrated a novel mode of coordination in mitochondrial transport between Khc and Dhc.

Arora, G. K., Tran, S. L., Rizzo, N., Jain, A. and Welte, M. A. (2016). Temporal control of bidirectional lipid-droplet motion depends on the ratio of kinesin-1 and its cofactor Halo. J Cell Sci [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 26906417
During bidirectional transport, individual cargoes move continuously back and forth along microtubule tracks, yet the cargo population overall displays directed net transport. How such transport is controlled temporally is not well understood. This issue was analyzed for bidirectionally moving lipid droplets in Drosophila embryos, a system in which net transport direction is developmentally controlled. By quantitating how the droplet distribution changes as embryos develop, temporal transitions were characterized in net droplet transport, and the critical contribution was identified of the previously identified, but poorly characterized transacting regulator Halo. In particular, Halo was found to be transiently expressed; rising and falling Halo levels control the switches in global distribution. Rising Halo levels have to pass a threshold before net plus-end transport is initiated. This threshold level depends on the amount of the motor kinesin-1: the more kinesin-1 is present, the more Halo is needed before net plus-end transport commences. Because Halo and kinesin-1 are present in common protein complexes, it is proposed that Halo acts as a rate-limiting co-factor of kinesin-1.

Monteith, C. E., Brunner, M. E., Djagaeva, I., Bielecki, A. M., Deutsch, J. M. and Saxton, W. M. (2016). A mechanism for cytoplasmic streaming: Kinesin-driven alignment of microtubules and fast fluid flows. Biophys J 110: 2053-2065. PubMed ID: 27166813
The transport of cytoplasmic components can be profoundly affected by hydrodynamics. Cytoplasmic streaming in Drosophila oocytes offers a striking example. Forces on fluid from kinesin-1 are initially directed by a disordered meshwork of microtubules, generating minor slow cytoplasmic flows. Subsequently, to mix incoming nurse cell cytoplasm with ooplasm, a subcortical layer of microtubules forms parallel arrays that support long-range, fast flows. To analyze the streaming mechanism, observations of microtubule and organelle motions were combined with detailed mathematical modeling. In the fast state, microtubules tethered to the cortex form a thin subcortical layer and undergo correlated sinusoidal bending. Organelles moving in flows along the arrays show velocities that are slow near the cortex and fast on the inward side of the subcortical microtubule layer. A quantitative coupled hydrodynamic model was developed for streaming. The fully detailed mathematical model and its simulations identify key variables that can shift the system between disordered (slow) and ordered (fast) states. This establishes a concrete mechanistic framework for the ooplasmic streaming process. The self-organizing fast phase is a result of viscous drag on kinesin-driven cargoes that mediates equal and opposite forces on cytoplasmic fluid and on microtubules whose minus ends are tethered to the cortex. Fluid moves toward plus ends and microtubules are forced backward toward their minus ends, resulting in buckling. Under certain conditions, the buckling microtubules self-organize into parallel bending arrays, guiding varying directions for fast plus-end directed fluid flows that facilitate mixing in a low Reynolds number regime.
Winding, M., Kelliher, M.T., Lu, W., Wildonger, J. and Gelfand, V.I. (2016). Role of kinesin-1-based microtubule sliding in Drosophila nervous system development. Proc Natl Acad Sci [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 27512046
The plus-end microtubule (MT) motor kinesin-1 is essential for normal development, with key roles in the nervous system. Kinesin-1 drives axonal transport of membrane cargoes to fulfill the metabolic needs of neurons and maintain synapses. It has been previously demonstrated that kinesin-1, in addition to its well-established role in organelle transport, can drive MT-MT sliding by transporting "cargo" MTs along "track" MTs, resulting in dramatic cell shape changes. The mechanism and physiological relevance of this MT sliding are unclear. In addition to its motor domain, kinesin-1 contains a second MT-binding site, located at the C terminus of the heavy chain. In this study, the C-terminal MT-binding site was mutated such that the ability of kinesin-1 to slide MTs is significantly compromised, whereas cargo transport is unaffected. This mutation was introduced into the genomic locus of kinesin-1 heavy chain (KHC), generating the KhcmutA allele. KhcmutA neurons display significant MT sliding defects while maintaining normal transport of many cargoes. Using this mutant, it was demonstrated that MT sliding is required for axon and dendrite outgrowth in vivo. Consistent with these results, KhcmutA flies display severe locomotion and viability defects. To test the role of MT sliding further, a chimeric motor that actively slides MTs but cannot transport organelles was engineered. Activation of MT sliding in KhcmutA neurons using this chimeric motor rescues axon outgrowth in cultured neurons and in vivo, firmly establishing the role of sliding in axon outgrowth. These results demonstrate that MT sliding by kinesin-1 is an essential biological phenomenon required for neuronal morphogenesis and normal nervous system development.
Lu, W., Winding, M., Lakonishok, M., Wildonger, J. and Gelfand, V.I. (2016). Microtubule-microtubule sliding by kinesin-1 is essential for normal cytoplasmic streaming in Drosophila oocytes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 27512034
Cytoplasmic streaming in Drosophila oocytes is a microtubule-based bulk cytoplasmic movement. Streaming efficiently circulates and localizes mRNAs and proteins deposited by the nurse cells across the oocyte. This movement is driven by kinesin-1, a major microtubule motor. It has been shown that kinesin-1 heavy chain (KHC) can transport one microtubule on another microtubule, thus driving microtubule-microtubule sliding in multiple cell types. To study the role of microtubule sliding in oocyte cytoplasmic streaming, this study used a Khc mutant that is deficient in microtubule sliding but able to transport a majority of cargoes. It was demonstrated that streaming is reduced by genomic replacement of wild-type Khc with this sliding-deficient mutant. Streaming can be fully rescued by wild-type KHC and partially rescued by a chimeric motor that cannot move organelles but is active in microtubule sliding. Consistent with these data, two populations of microtubules in fast-streaming oocytes were identified: a network of stable microtubules anchored to the actin cortex and free cytoplasmic microtubules that move in the ooplasm. It was further demonstrated that the reduced streaming in sliding-deficient oocytes results in posterior determination defects. Together, the study proposes that kinesin-1 slides free cytoplasmic microtubules against cortically immobilized microtubules, generating forces that contribute to cytoplasmic streaming and are essential for the refinement of posterior determinants.
Mickolajczyk, K. J., Deffenbaugh, N. C., Arroyo, J. O., Andrecka, J., Kukura, P. and Hancock, W. O. (2015). Kinetics of nucleotide-dependent structural transitions in the kinesin-1 hydrolysis cycle. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112: E7186-7193. PubMed ID: 26676576
To dissect the kinetics of structural transitions underlying the stepping cycle of kinesin-1 at physiological ATP, interferometric scattering microscopy was used to track the position of gold nanoparticles attached to individual motor domains in processively stepping dimers. Labeled heads resided stably at positions 16.4 nm apart, corresponding to a microtubule-bound state, and at a previously unseen intermediate position, corresponding to a tethered state. The chemical transitions underlying these structural transitions were identified by varying nucleotide conditions and carrying out parallel stopped-flow kinetics assays. At saturating ATP, kinesin-1 spends half of each stepping cycle with one head bound, specifying a structural state for each of two rate-limiting transitions. Analysis of stepping kinetics in varying nucleotides shows that ATP binding is required to properly enter the one-head-bound state, and hydrolysis is necessary to exit it at a physiological rate. These transitions differ from the standard model in which ATP binding drives full docking of the flexible neck linker domain of the motor. Thus, this work defines a consensus sequence of mechanochemical transitions (see Full-microtubule interaction diagram for kinesin-1) that can be used to understand functional diversity across the kinesin superfamily.
Veeranan-Karmegam, R., Boggupalli, D. P., Liu, G. and Gonsalvez, G. B. (2016). A new isoform of Drosophila non-muscle Tropomyosin 1 interacts with Kinesin-1 and functions in oskar mRNA localization. J Cell Sci 129: 4252-4264. PubMed ID: 27802167
Recent studies have revealed that diverse cell types use mRNA localization as a means to establish polarity. Despite the prevalence of this phenomenon, much less is known regarding the mechanism by which mRNAs are localized. The Drosophila melanogaster oocyte provides a useful model for examining the process of mRNA localization. oskar (osk) mRNA is localized at the posterior of the oocyte, thus restricting the expression of Oskar protein to this site. The localization of osk mRNA is microtubule dependent and requires the plus-end-directed motor Kinesin-1. Unlike most Kinesin-1 cargoes, localization of osk mRNA requires the Kinesin heavy chain (Khc) motor subunit, but not the Kinesin light chain (Klc) adaptor. This report, demonstrates that a newly discovered isoform of Tropomyosin 1, referred to as Tm1C, directly interacts with Khc and functions in concert with this microtubule motor to localize osk mRNA. Apart from osk mRNA localization, several additional Khc-dependent processes in the oocyte are unaffected upon loss of Tm1C. These results therefore suggest that the Tm1C-Khc interaction is specific for the osk localization pathway.
Kulkarni, A., Khan, Y. and Ray, K. (2016). Heterotrimeric kinesin-2, together with kinesin-1, steers vesicular acetylcholinesterase movements toward the synapse. Faseb j. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 27920150
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which is implicated in the pathophysiology of neurological disorders, is distributed along the axon and enriched at the presynaptic basal lamina. It hydrolyses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which inhibits synaptic transmission. Aberrant AChE activity and ectopic axonal accumulation of the enzyme are associated with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. The molecular mechanism that underlies AChE transport is still unclear. This study shows that expression of Drosophila AChE tagged with photoactivable green fluorescent protein and m-Cherry (GPAC) in cholinergic neurons compensates for the RNA interference-mediated knockdown of endogenous AChE activity. GPAC-AChE, which is enriched in the neuropil region of the brain, moves in the apparently vesicular form in axons with an anterograde bias in Drosophila larvae. Two anterograde motors, kinesin-1 and kinesin-2, propel distinct aspects of GPAC-AChE movements. Total loss of kinesin-2 reduces the density of anterograde traffic and increases bidirectional movements of GPAC-AChE vesicles without altering their speed. A partial loss of kinesin-1 reduces both the density and speed of anterograde GPAC-AChE traffic and enhances the pool of stationary vesicles. Together, these results suggest that combining activity of a relatively weak kinesin-2 with that of a stronger kinesin-1 motor could steer AChE-containing vesicles toward synapse, and provides a molecular basis for the observed subcellular distribution of the enzyme.
Gaspar, I., Sysoev, V., Komissarov, A. and Ephrussi, A. (2016). An RNA-binding atypical tropomyosin recruits kinesin-1 dynamically to oskar mRNPs. Embo J [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 28028052
Localization and local translation of oskar mRNA at the posterior pole of the Drosophila oocyte directs abdominal patterning and germline formation in the embryo. The process requires recruitment and precise regulation of motor proteins to form transport-competent mRNPs. The posterior-targeting kinesin-1 is loaded upon nuclear export of oskar mRNPs, prior to their dynein-dependent transport from the nurse cells into the oocyte. Kinesin-1 recruitment requires the DmTropomyosin1-I/C isoform, an atypical RNA-binding tropomyosin that binds directly to dimerizing oskar 3'UTRs. The isoform is on of 17 predicted mRNA isoforms and 13 distinct polypeptides encoded by the TM1 gene. Finally, a small but dynamically changing subset of oskar mRNPs gets loaded with inactive kinesin-1, and that the motor is activated during mid-oogenesis by the functionalized spliced oskar RNA localization element. This inefficient, dynamic recruitment of Khc decoupled from cargo-dependent motor activation constitutes an optimized, coordinated mechanism of mRNP transport, by minimizing interference with other cargo-transport processes and between the cargo-associated dynein and kinesin-1.
Lim, A., Rechtsteiner, A. and Saxton, W. M. (2017). Two kinesins drive anterograde neuropeptide transport. Mol Biol Cell [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 28904207
Motor-dependent anterograde transport, a process that moves cytoplasmic components from sites of biosynthesis to sites of use within cells, is crucial in neurons with long axons. Evidence has emerged that multiple anterograde kinesins can contribute to some transport processes. To test the multi-kinesin possibility for a single vesicle type, the functional relationships were studied of axonal kinesins to dense core vesicles (DCVs) that were filled with a GFP-tagged neuropeptide in the Drosophila nervous system. Past work showed that Unc-104 (a kinesin-3) is a key anterograde DCV motor. This study showed that anterograde DCV transport requires the well-known mitochondrial motor Khc (kinesin-1). The results indicate that this influence is direct. Khc mutations had specific effects on anterograde run parameters, neuron-specific inhibition of mitochondrial transport by Milton RNAi had no influence on anterograde DCV runs, and detailed co-localization analysis by super resolution microscopy revealed that Unc-104 and Khc co-associate with individual DCVs. DCV distribution analysis in peptidergic neurons suggest the two kinesins have compartment specific influences. A mechanism is suggested in which Unc-104 is particularly important for moving DCVs from cell bodies into axons, then Unc-104 and kinesin-1 function together to support fast, highly processive runs toward axon terminals.
Iacobucci, G. J. and Gunawardena, S. (2017). Ethanol stimulates the in vivo axonal movement of neuropeptide dense core vesicles in Drosophila motor neurons. J Neurochem [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed ID: 28960313
Proper neuronal function requires essential biological cargoes to be packaged within membranous vesicles and transported, intracellularly, through the extensive outgrowth of axonal and dendritic fibers. The precise spatiotemporal movement of these cargoes is vital for neuronal survival and, thus, is highly regulated. This study tested how the axonal movement of a neuropeptide containing dense core vesicle (DCV) responds to alcohol stressors. Ethanol was found to induce a strong anterograde bias in vesicle movement. Low doses of ethanol stimulate the anterograde movement of neuropeptide-DCV while high doses inhibit bidirectional movement. This process required the presence of functional kinesin-1 motors as reduction of kinesin prevented the ethanol-induced stimulation of the anterograde movement of neuropeptide-DCV. Furthermore, expression of inactive GSK-3beta also prevented ethanol-induced stimulation of neuropeptide-DCV movement, similar to pharmacological inhibition of GSK-3beta with lithium. Conversely, inhibition of PI3K/AKT signaling with wortmannin led to a partial prevention of ethanol-stimulated transport of neuropeptide-DCV. Taken together, it is concluded that GSK-3beta signaling mediates the stimulatory effects of ethanol. Therefore, this study provides new insight into the physiological response of the axonal movement of neuropeptide-DCV to exogenous stressors.

Kinesin is expressed in virtually all cells of both vertebrates and invertebrates. The majority of kinesin appears to be free in cytosol, but various studies have shown that it can associate with endoplasmic recticulum (ER), vesicles, mitochondria, and other organelles. Function disruption tests indicate that it is critical for fast organelle transport in axons, although the set of cargoes it carries is not clearly defined (see for example Goldstein, 2000). Other studies of non-neuronal cells or cell-free systems suggest that kinesin is important for the positioning of lysosomes, mitochondria, and ER. It is also thought to be important for vesicle transport from the Golgi to the plasma membrane, one of the late steps in the secretion pathway, and in Golgi-to-ER membrane recycling, which is an indirect but essential part of the early secretion pathway. For example, based on the effects of anti-kinesin heavy chain antibodies or a KHC tail fragment microinjected into sea urchin embryos, kinesin has been proposed to be important for outward transport, to the cortex, of a class of vesicles used for rapid membrane repair. Furthermore, based on immunolocalization and on the effects of anti-KHC antibodies on brefeldin A-induced Golgi-to-ER membrane transport in vertebrate cultured cells, kinesin has been proposed to be the motor for Golgi-to-ER membrane recycling (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

Kinesin heavy chain (Khc) is the plus end directed microtubule motor protein of Drosophila. Conventional kinesin (often referred to simply as kinesin) is an abundant microtubule motor protein that functions in a number of important intracellular transport processes. Kinesin is a heterotetramer, comprised of 2 kinesin heavy chains and 2 light chains. The heavy chains dimerize to form an elongated stalk with 2 amino-terminal globular domains ('motor domains') at one end and the light chains at the other end. The light chains and stalk are expected to bind the cytoplasmic cargoes that conventional kinesin transports. Each motor domain couples a cycle of ATP turnover to conformational changes and a cycle of microtubule binding and release that generates displacement toward the microtubule plus end. A single motor domain is not processive. In contrast, dimerized motor domains are remarkably processive, making hundreds of steps before releasing from the microtubule. This feature is probably critical for the resolute transport of small organelles that can present only one or a few kinesin molecules to a microtubule (Brendza, 1999 and references therein).

The Kinesin heavy chain moves its cytoplasmic cargo toward the plus ends of microtubules. Microtubules are relatively long, straight polymers that course throughout the cytoplasm. In undifferentiated and in fibroblastoid cell types, the minus ends of microtubules are usually near the cell center, whereas the plus ends are usually near the periphery. This is consistent with the idea that most microtubule-based, outward vesicle movements (Golgi-to-ER or Golgi-to-plasma membrane) are driven by plus end-directed kinesins, and most inward movements are driven by cytoplasmic dyneins. In differentiated cells, a variety of microtubule orientations are seen. For instance, in the axons of neurons, almost all plus ends are away from the cell center and toward the terminal. In some but not all polarized epithelial cells, microtubules are oriented with their plus ends toward the basal pole and their minus ends near the apical pole. In such situations, in which the polarity is relatively uniform, models have been developed that invoke appropriate microtubule motors for various steps in vesicle or other organelle transport (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

To address questions about kinesin function in motility processes, other than axonal transport, in an intact organism, an examination was carried out of the effects of recessive, Khc null mutations on various cell types in Drosophila. When the entire organism is homozygous for a null mutation, it becomes paralyzed and dies during the midlarval stage, preventing studies of Khc function during the remainder of development. To circumvent this lethality, a mitotic recombination strategy was used to generate chimeras with a few homozygous null cells in otherwise healthy heterozygous organisms. The fates of the descendants of such Khc null cells were then studied by light and electron microscopy. A focus was placed on two predictions of the hypothesis that kinesin is an important motor for vesicle transport in the late secretory and recycling pathways. (1) Because disruption of vesicle traffic should block membrane growth and thus cell proliferation, the proliferation of Khc null imaginal cells was assessed. Surprisingly, the null cells proliferate normally to produce large clones of adult cells. (2) Because disruption of vesicle traffic can cause striking changes in the organization of ER and Golgi as well as defective secretion, postmitotic cells that rely heavily on the secretory pathway were studied in detail. Defects consistent with a role for kinesin in the Golgi-to-ER recycling pathway are not seen. However, defects were seen consistent with a role for kinesin in long-distance late secretory vesicle transport (Golgi-to-plasma membrane) (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

A mechanosensory bristle shaft forms as a fluted cylinder of cuticle around a long cytoplasmic extension that projects outward from a trichogen cell body. During bristle shaft differentiation, which occurs in pupae, the core of the extension contains many parallel microtubules running from the base toward the tip. Because the Golgi and nucleus of the trichogen are located in the cell body beneath the pupal epidermis, it is likely that secretion of the shaft cuticle components requires a great deal of vesicular traffic from the Golgi into and along the shaft-forming extension. The mechanosensory bristles in Khcnull wing clones are sometimes kinked. To examine possible cuticle secretion defects in more detail, Khcnull clones were examined throughout the adult epidermis. The longest null bristles had defects that were obvious even with a low-power light microscope. Some lay flat or twisted along the epidermal sheet rather than projecting outward from its surface. A number of those that did project outward were tested by direct mechanical manipulation. Beheaded flies will remain viable for several days in a moist chamber. They stand motionless but can respond to bristle deflections with reflex grooming behaviors (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

Outside of test clones, the deflection of individual bristles with a tungsten needle caused normal pivoting at the base and elicited grooming reflexes. Inside test clones, bristles were so flaccid that attempted deflections usually caused a bend or kink rather than the pivoting needed to elicit a grooming reflex. Bristles from null and control clones were studied in detail by SEM. Khcnull bristles have a variety of structural defects. The longest test class bristles, the scutellar macrochaetae (300-400 µm), are usually ~20% shorter than the analogous wild-type bristles. This length defect is less evident in shorter macrochaetae and is not seen in microchaetae. The tips of test bristles are often contorted, and the contortions are most severe at the tips of long machrochaetae, which always exhibit flattened, flared, or twisted tips. Mutant microchaetae (65-70 µm) show less dramatic defects, such as bluntness or slight tip swelling. No defects are observed in the remainder of the integument, including the bristle sockets, the tiny (10-15 µm) nonsensory hairs of the epidermal cells, or the epidermal cuticle sheet. The severities of head, thoracic, and abdominal bristle defects were not detectably affected by clone size (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

The evident weakness of Khcnull bristle shafts suggests that cuticle secretion from the shaft-forming extensions of trichogen cells is defective during differentiation. Consistent with this, SEM images showed defects in cuticle fluting. To study bristle cuticle pattern and thickness in more detail, serial cross-sections of wild-type and Khcnull scutellar bristles were compared by TEM. Overall, the cuticle layers of null bristles are quite thin. This effect is more pronounced at the tips of bristles than at their bases. These results suggest that KHC is critical for long-distance transport of secretory vesicles that bear cuticle precursors from the Golgi into and along the bristle shaft-forming extension. However, the fact that some cuticle secretion occurs even at the tips of the longest null bristles suggests that vesicle transport can continue at a low level despite the absence of KHC (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

Conventional kinesin has long been suspected of being a vesicle motor. Initially this stemmed from its discovery in axoplasm, which is rich in Golgi-derived transport vesicles, and its co-localization with vesicles in cultured cells. A number of studies have focused on the identification of specific types of vesicles that kinesin might carry, but the results have not provided a consistent answer. For example, in a study of vesicle/tubule transport in the recycling pathway, antibody inhibition of KHC blocked brefeldin A-induced movement of Golgi membranes into the ER in cultured NRK cells. Conversely, antisense oligonucleotide inhibition of KHC in cultured rat astrocytes and gene disruption in cultured mouse extraembryonic cells does not prevent brefeldin A-induced Golgi-to-ER membrane transfer. With regard to Golgi-to-plasma membrane vesicle transport, antisense oligonucleotide inhibition of KHC in cultured vertebrate neurons impairs delivery of vesicles containing certain synaptic proteins to axon terminals. In contrast, Khc mutations in Drosophila (Gho, 1992) and Caenorhabditis elegans do not prevent the accumulation of normal levels of synaptic vesicles at axon terminals (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

It has also been proposed that conventional kinesin is a motor for other elements of the cytoplasm, including mitochondria, lysosomes, ER, and intermediate filaments (Yabe, 1999 and reviews by Goodson, 1997; Lane, 1998; Goldstein, 1999). However, function disruption tests have again yielded conflicting data. Antisense oligonucleotide inhibition of KHC in cultured rat astrocytes causes a retraction of the ER network. In contrast, antibody inhibition of KHC in sea urchin embryonic cells or gene disruption in mouse extraembryonic cells has no dramatic effects on ER organization. Antibody inhibition of KHC in human fibroblasts and gene disruption in mouse extraembryonic cells causes mitochondria, which are normally dispersed throughout the cytoplasm, to cluster near the cell center. However, no effect on mitochondrial distribution is seen in rat astrocytes injected with Khc antisense oligonucleotides or in mutant strains of C. elegans and fungi (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

Overall, in the context of the cells and processes examined in Drosophila, the results suggest (1) that conventional kinesin is not essential for vesicle movement from the Golgi to either the ER or the plasma membrane in most cells; (2) that it is important for proper long-range vesicle transport in some elongated cells, and (3) that it is not required for the proper distribution of ER or mitochondria, at least in photoreceptor cells. Comparisons of control and Khcnull clones indicate that in the undifferentiated cells of imaginal discs, neither the rates nor the extents of cell proliferation are affected by a depletion of KHC. This should put to rest any lingering suspicion that conventional kinesin might have an essential role in mitosis. Furthermore, this comparision shows that conventional kinesin is not essential for any of the interphase motility processes required for imaginal cell growth. Whether the positioning of ER, lysosomes, or mitochondria is critical for cell growth is not clear. However, it is clear that vesicle transport in the secretory pathway is essential. For instance, in S. cereviseae, mutations that inhibit the Golgi-to-ER recycling pathway or the Golgi-to-plasma membrane 'late' secretory pathway cause a rapid halt to cell growth and division. More directly relevant to the results of this study, when mitotic recombination was used in Drosophila to create cells null for Rop, a homolog of the late secretory gene SEC1 of yeast, imaginal cells could not proliferate sufficiently to produce clones of adult cells. Mutations in syntaxin, which encode a t-SNARE thought to interact with ROP protein, also block imaginal cell proliferation. Thus, the proliferation and development of Drosophila imaginal cells is indeed sensitive to disruption of known elements of the secretion pathway. The fact that imaginal cell proliferation is not affected by a loss of KHC suggests that both the recycling pathway and the late secretion pathway can operate at normal rates with little or no conventional kinesin in small cells (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

Defects in eye differentiation caused by a loss of KHC were mild and again are not consistent with major secretory pathway defects. Previous work has shown that disruption of the secretory pathway in photoreceptors should cause easily recognized changes in ultrastructure. For example, expression in the adult eye of a dominant negative form of a protein thought to function early in the secretory pathway, Rab1, causes hypertrophy and swelling of the ER, vesiculation or absence of the Golgi, and dramatic shrinkage of rhabdomeres. Shrunken rhabdomeres are also caused by mutations that block the transport of vesicles bearing rhodopsin from the Golgi to the plasma membrane. Although a loss of KHC did cause some mild structural defects in a few photoreceptor cell bodies, it did not cause shrunken rhabdomeres or any major changes in the organization of cytoplasmic organelles, including mitochondria, the nucleus, ER, and Golgi (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

If conventional kinesin is dispensable for the secretion pathway in imaginal and retinal cells, how is vesicle movement away from the Golgi accomplished? Four alternative and nonexclusive force-generating systems come to mind: diffusion, minus end-directed microtubule motors, cytoplasmic myosins, and plus end-directed kinesin-related proteins. In some differentiated vertebrate epithelial cells, microtubule arrays have mixed polarity with some minus ends near the apical cortex and some near the cell center. Therefore, minus end-directed motors such as cytoplasmic dynein might be sufficient for vesicle transport in both directions. The involvement of plus end-directed kinesin-related motors is an attractive possibility. There are several different types of motors in the kinesin superfamily that might function in the recycling and late secretion pathways (reviewed by Goldstein, 1999). Whether these motors are expressed in imaginal cells is uncertain. However, it is reasonable to think that one or more of them is present and active in vesicle transport (R. P. Brendza, 2000a and references therein).

The elongated trichogen cells that create mechanosensory bristles (~1-2 × 100-400 µm) clearly do require conventional kinesin for normal secretion of cuticle precursors. Previous studies of another elongated Drosophila cell type, the larval motor neuron (~0.3 × 300-2000 µm), have shown that conventional kinesin is important in axons for membrane excitability, terminal growth, neurotransmitter secretion, and fast organelle transport (Gho, 1992; Hurd, 1996a; Hurd, 1996b; Gindhart, 1998). In the shaft-forming extensions of trichogen cells, as in axons, parallel arrays of microtubules are prominent. In both motor axons and bristles, the loss of KHC has a graded effect; distal regions are most strongly affected, and the defects become more severe as cell length increases (Gho, 1992; Hurd, 1996a; R. P. Brendza, 2000a). These observations suggest that conventional kinesin function is especially important for long-range vesicle movements, processes that are likely to demand efficient, highly processive transport machinery (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

It is possible that conventional kinesin is a 'specialty motor,' a major contributor only to long-distance transport in specialized cells, whereas more ordinary motility is accomplished by other motors, such as cytoplasmic myosins and kinesin-related proteins. The evolutionary conservation of KHC in metazoans and its ubiquitous expression in both undifferentiated and differentiated cell types argue against this hypothesis, but it remains possible. Alternatively, conventional kinesin could be a more general motor, combining with kinesin-related proteins and myosins as a contributor to both short- and long-range movement of a variety of organelles. In this case, the other organelle/vesicle motors could compensate for the absence of kinesin sufficiently to prevent dramatic defects in cells with transport tracks of normal length. However, as track length and the requirement for transport efficiency increases, the lack of kinesin would cause progressively more severe defects. That is consistent with what has been seen in the R. P. Brendza (2000a) study. Some of the conflicting results seen in KHC function disruption tests (Goodson, 1997; Lane, 1998) could then be due to differences in cell geometry and to variations in the sets of myosins and kinesin-related motors that are expressed in the different systems studied; that is, kinesin gets more or less support from other motors depending on cell size, cell type, and perhaps culture conditions. In either case, as has been found for mitotic chromosome movements, it is probable that interphase organelle/vesicle movements are driven by the cooperative activities of multiple types of motors and that monogamous motor-cargo relationships in common transport processes are rare. For both chromosomes and interphase organelles, a clear view of such cooperative or multilayered transport systems will require rigorous definitions of specific motor-cargo relationships, including linkage mechanisms and regulatory controls (R. P. Brendza, 2000a).

Kinesin heavy chain function in Drosophila glial cells controls neuronal activity

Kinesin heavy chain (Khc) is crucially required for axonal transport and khc mutants show axonal swellings and paralysis. This study demonstrates that in Drosophila khc is equally important in glial cells. Glial-specific downregulation of khc by RNA interference suppresses neuronal excitability and results in spastic flies. The specificity of the phenotype was verified by interspecies rescue experiments and further mutant analyses. Khc is mostly required in the subperineurial glia forming the blood-brain barrier. Following glial-specific knockdown, peripheral nerves are swollen with maldistributed mitochondria. To better understand khc function, Khc-dependent Rab proteins were determined in glia, and evidence is presented that Neurexin IV, a well known blood-brain barrier constituent, is one of the relevant cargo proteins. This work shows that the role of Khc for neuronal excitability must be considered in the light of its necessity for directed transport in glia (Schmidt, 2012).

It is well established that the modulation of neuronal functionality depends on the ability of glial cells to provide metabolic support, regulate neurotransmitter homeostasis and influence the electrical conductance. To decipher these processes a large-scale RNAi screen was performed and ~5000 genes were silenced specifically in glial cells. This study presents an unexpected glial function of Drosophila khc in regulating neuronal activity. The specificity of the phenotype was ascertained by interspecies rescue studies and cell type-specific rescue of the khc mutant. Furthermore, the fact that glial-specific knockdown of β3-tubulin results in identical neuronal phenotypes demonstrates the functional relevance of Khc-dependent transport along microtubules (Schmidt, 2012).

Drosophila Khc was identified more than 20 years ago. In khc mutant larvae, vesicles, lysosomes, and mitochondria accumulate in axons. This results in swollen axons and eventually in larval paralysis. This study has generated a number of UAS-driven khc constructs to examine cell type-specific requirements of Khc. Two different khc alleles, khc6 and khc8, were used in trans to a genomic deficiency to eliminate background effects. Surprisingly, ubiquitous expression of Khc is not able to rescue the hypomorphic allele khc6. In contrast the null mutation khc8 can be completely rescued by Khc expression. khc6 contains an alteration in coil 2 of the stalk domain, a region implemented to be important for Kinesin light chain and cargo linkage. Thus, khc6 may induce some antimorphic functions. But the introduction of a genomic rescue construct of khc (P-khc+) has been described as being able to rescue khc6-associated lethality, which points to very high levels of endogenous (Schmidt, 2012).

Using a null mutant background (khc8/Df(2R)Jp6), it was possible to perform cell type-specific rescue experiments. Following expression of khc in neurons using elavGal4 only 6% of the expected flies survived. These flies were very sluggish and died within 6 d. To analyze glial-specific requirements of Khc, the ubiquitous Gal4-dependent rescue was compare with and without a glial cell-specific Gal4 repressor (repoGal80). A significant difference was apparent, the repressor reduced viability down to ~60%, which further supports the crucial role of Khc in glial cells (Schmidt, 2012).

Glial-specific knockdown of khc revealed an adult phenotype, which resembled a hyperexcitation phenotype. khc knockdown flies have the ability to walk. However, to initiate flight, flies need to jump. Upon khc knockdown, flies fail to perform this jump but rather directly start with a wing beat. Such flies then turn on their backs or spin over the floor, which then results in the characteristic popcorn-like movements. Thus, khc knockdown delays or prevents the jumping response (Schmidt, 2012).

In larvae, glial knockdown of khc results in reduced and delayed evoked responses at the muscle. Concomitantly, swellings of the peripheral nerves were apparent. In the majority of the swellings (and only in the swellings) a mislocalization of the septate junction protein Neurexin IV was found. This indicates that knockdown of khc results in an opening of the blood-brain barrier. In turn, this results in influx of potassium into the nervous system. Such influx is known to induce changes in axonal physiology and conductance velocity. Recently the role of focal adhesion kinase 56 (fak56) in Drosophila nerves was reported. Focal adhesion kinase acts downstream of integrin receptors, which are also known to be expressed by Drosophila glial cells. Interestingly, loss of fak56 function in the subperineurial glial cells (which constitute the blood-brain barrier) lowers axonal conductance in larvae and also renders the larvae sluggish pointing toward the notion that adhesion is required for a full establishment of the blood-brain barrier (Schmidt, 2012).

The observed suppression of EJP could in principle also be due to presynaptic defects or defects in the glutamate receptors expressed by the muscle. However, in contrast to vertebrates, where terminal Schwann cells cover the NMJ, the NMJ of Drosophila larvae grows into the muscle cell, which forms a so called subsynaptic reticulum around the NMJ. In addition, only few (subperineurial) glial processes invade parts of the NMJ in a highly dynamic fashion and where they participate in the removal of presynaptic debris. To further discriminate between a possible synaptic or an axonal defect the latency of EJP suppression was compared by injecting the current in the nerve 200-300 μm distant from the NMJ or in the ventral nerve cord 1000 μm distant from the NMJ. In this setting the latency doubled suggesting that axonal conductance is impaired upon glial khc knockdown. Therefore, it is anticipated that the suppression of the EJPs caused by glial reduction of khc function is unlikely due to synaptic defects (Schmidt, 2012).

Moreover, if khc would modulate synaptic activities, it would be acting in adult flies. However, when khc function was silenced only during adult stages using the TARGET system, no abnormal locomotion was observed, demonstrating that Khc is needed during development and not during adult stages (Schmidt, 2012).

Several Rab proteins were identified as highly motile in glia and their motility was significantly reduced upon khc suppression. Rab30 has been identified as a downstream target of JNK signaling, which can control kinesin cargo linkage. In addition, JNK-interacting proteins (JIPs) link Kinesin with membrane vesicles and are involved in Khc activation and cargo release. For vertebrate Rab21 a possible role in targeted Integrin trafficking from and to the cleavage furrow during cell division and an involvement in the endocytic pathway have been described (Schmidt, 2012).

The swollen nerves are likely due to a defective blood-brain barrier. The integrity of septate junctions for normal locomotion has also been suggested by the analysis of mutants affecting several septate junction components. At the end of embryogenesis, lachesin, neurexin IV, and gliotactin mutant embryos are hyperactive before becoming immobile. Possibly, the influx of potassium and sodium ions into the nervous system affects conductivity. Interestingly, panglial downregulation of the Na-K-Cl cotransporter Ncc69 or the serine/threonine kinase Fray also results in locomotion defects characterized by jumping flies. Fray and Ncc69 act in the subperineurial glia but no affect on neuronal conductance had been determined in peripheral nerves (Leiserson, 2011a; Leiserson, 2011b). Thus, the disruption of septate junctions as seen following knockdown of khc likely affects ion homeostasis more dramatically (Schmidt, 2012).

Drosophila NrxIV is highly mislocalized upon glial khc suppression. Other examples of a role for kinesin in cell polarization have been described. KIF5B and KIF5C are involved in polarized transport of certain apically distributed proteins in cultured mammalian epithelial cells. Additionally, KIF13B has been shown to directly transport proteins like Dlg1 to myelinating sites in Schwann cells. Thus, a similar function might be performed by Drosophila Khc in subperineurial glial cells and Khc might be involved in the directed transport of transmembrane proteins to septate junctions (Schmidt, 2012).

Germ plasm anchoring is a dynamic state that requires persistent trafficking

Localized cytoplasmic determinants packaged as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles direct embryonic patterning and cell fate specification in a wide range of organisms. Once established, the asymmetric distributions of such RNP particles must be maintained, often over considerable developmental time. A striking example is the Drosophila germ plasm, which contains RNP particles whose localization to the posterior of the egg during oogenesis results in their asymmetric inheritance and segregation of germline from somatic fates in the embryo. Although actin-based anchoring mechanisms have been implicated, high-resolution live imaging revealed persistent trafficking of germ plasm RNP particles at the posterior cortex of the Drosophila oocyte. This motility relies on cortical microtubules, is mediated by kinesin and dynein motors, and requires coordination between the microtubule and actin cytoskeletons. Finally, RNP particle motility was shown to be required for long-term germ plasm retention. It is proposed that anchoring is a dynamic state that renders asymmetries robust to developmental time and environmental perturbations (Sinsimer, 2013).

To determine whether motors mediate microtubule-dependent germ plasm RNP particle motility in late-stage oocytes, advantage was taken of mutations that disrupt motor protein activity. The initial localization of osk mRNA during midoogenesis is mediated by the plus-end motor kinesin, and a null mutation in Kinesin heavy chain (Khc), the force-generating component of kinesin, causes mis-localization of germ plasm around the entire oocyte cortex during midoogenesis. Visualization of GFP-Vas in Khc mutant germline clones showed that this aberrant pattern persisted in late-stage oocytes. Despite the paucity of GFP-Vas particles at any one cortical location, examples were observed of dynamic behavior, and these occurred regardless of where on the cortex the particles were located. Quantification of the small population of GFP-Vas particles at the posterior cortex of Khc mutant oocytes showed a 1.7-fold reduction in the motile fraction as compared to wild-type oocytes and a 36% reduction in the median velocity of the motile particles (Sinsimer, 2013).

The finding that germ plasm RNP particle motility is reduced but not abolished in the complete absence of kinesin function suggested the involvement of a second motor. Therefore whether the minus-end motor dynein might be required was tested. Unlike kinesin, dynein is essential during early oogenesis, and complete abrogation of dynein activity precludes egg development. Consequently, the effect of hypomorphic mutations in Dynein heavy chain (Dhc) was examined; these eggs have reduced dynein activity but still complete oogenesis. Quantification of GFP-Vas in late-stage Dhc mutant oocytes showed a 1.6-fold decrease in the motile fraction (19%) as compared to wild-type. Moreover, the median velocity of motile particles in Dhc mutants was half that of wild-type oocytes. In a second approach, dynein activity was disrupted acutely in late-stage oocytes by heat shock-inducible expression of p50/Dynamitin (Dmn), a component of the dynactin complex that interferes with dynein activity when overexpressed. Although heat shock alone had a minor effect on GFP-Vas particle motility, there was a 2.4-fold decrease in the motile fraction when dynein was inactivated as compared to heat-shocked wild-type controls. Moreover, the median velocity of the motile population in late oocytes overexpressing Dmn was reduced by 30% compared to control oocytes. Thus, it is concluded that both kinesin and dynein contribute to germ plasm RNP motility. The comparable loss of motility in null kinesin and hypomorphic dynein mutants, however, suggests that dynein-mediated transport predominates (Sinsimer, 2013).

Both of these motors are also involved in transport events during midoogenesis: dynein for movement of mRNAs from nurse cells to oocyte and anteriorly directed transport within the oocyte, kinesin for posterior transport of osk. Previous work indicated that the bulk of germ plasm mRNA localization occurs not by motor-dependent transport, however, but by diffusion and entrapment of transcripts that enter the oocyte during nurse cell dumping. It has not been possible to resolve particles containing kinesin or dynein in late oocytes using current GFP fusions. Thus, the important question of when and where the association of motors with germ plasm RNP particles occurs awaits the development of new methods for visualization of motors in Drosophila oocytes (Sinsimer, 2013).

The association of localized germ plasm RNP complexes with dynein in late-stage oocytes may serve a second purpose, providing preassembled transport particles for germ cell inheritance in the early embryo. The process of germ cell formation initiates when centrosomes and/or astral microtubules associated with nuclei that migrate to the posterior of the syncytial embryo induce release of germ plasm from the posterior cortex. Recruitment of germ plasm to the centrosomes by dynein-dependent transport on astral microtubules is required for these nuclei to induce germ cell formation and for the inheritance of the germ plasm by the newly formed germ cells. The prior coupling of germ plasm RNP particles to dynein in the oocyte may allow their rapid accumulation on astral microtubules upon release from the cortex (Sinsimer, 2013).

Under conditions of stress such as nutrient deprivation or in the absence of potential mates, female flies will hold mature eggs until conditions improve to increase the likelihood of survival for their progeny. Notably, females can hold mature eggs for at least 15 days without consequence to the viability or fertility of their progeny). Thus, sustaining germ plasm localization through such a delay of fertilization and the onset of embryogenesis is biologically crucial. It is hypothesized that the persistent trafficking of germ plasm might provide a mechanism for retaining germ plasm at the posterior over long periods of time (Sinsimer, 2013).

Because dynein is a major mediator of germ plasm RNP motility and can be manipulated acutely, whether compromising dynein function in held eggs by inducible Dmn overexpression would lead to a progressive loss of germ plasm from the posterior was tested. Advantage was taken of a single-molecule fluorescent in situ hybridization (smFISH) method to detect endogenous nos and osk mRNAs in mature oocytes. smFISH provides a major advance for mRNA analyses during the vitellogenic stages of Drosophila oocytes, which are largely impervious to standard molecular probes. The amount of localized germ plasm was quantified by measuring fluorescence intensity for each probe (Sinsimer, 2013).

More than 70% of mature oocytes from wild-type control or Dmn-overexpressing females, dissected immediately following heat shock, exhibited robust germ plasm accumulation. A spreading of nos and osk along the cortex was observed in some oocytes overexpressing Dmn, likely due to an immediate effect of dynein inhibition on germ plasm retention following the 2 hr heat shock regimen. Examination of wild-type control oocytes held for 18 hr showed little effect of the holding period alone on localization of the germ plasm RNAs. In contrast, inhibition of dynein function in held oocytes led to a dramatic loss of both nos and osk from the posterior cortex, with robust localization persisting in fewer than 30%. Thus, it is concluded that dynein-mediated motility is required for long-term retention of germ plasm at the posterior cortex of the oocyte (Sinsimer, 2013).

Similarly, the effect of MyoV loss on germ plasm components was tested in held oocytes. In mature didum mutant oocytes, nos mRNA was properly localized to the posterior, and unlike the case for Dmn overexpression, nos persisted during the holding period. Together, these data support a model in which enhanced dynein-mediated motility facilitates nos RNP particle accumulation at the posterior. In contrast, osk mRNA was no longer confined to the posterior cortex in didum mutant oocytes but often had a graded or diffuse distribution. Thus, a requirement for MyoV function in entrapment and/or retention of osk extends into late oogenesis. Strikingly, a tight cortical distribution of osk was largely restored in didum mutant oocytes held for 18 hr. This suggests that given sufficient time, microtubule-based motility of osk RNP particles allows localization to recover in the absence of MyoV (Sinsimer, 2013).


cDNA clone length - 3547

Bases in 5' UTR - 320

Exons - 4

Bases in 3' UTR - 299


Amino Acids - 975

Structural Domains

The structure and function of kinesin heavy chain from D. melanogaster have been studied using DNA sequence analysis and analysis of the properties of truncated kinesin heavy chain synthesized in vitro. Analysis of the sequence suggests the existence of a 50 kd globular amino-terminal domain that contains an ATP binding consensus sequence, followed by another 50-60 kd domain that has sequence characteristics consistent with the ability to fold into an alpha helical coiled coil. The properties of amino- and carboxy-terminally truncated kinesin heavy chains synthesized in vitro reveal that a 60 kd amino-terminal fragment has the nucleotide-dependent microtubule binding activities of the intact kinesin heavy chain, and hence is likely to be a 'motor' domain. Finally, the sequence data indicate the presence of a small carboxy-terminal domain. Because it is located at the end of the molecule away from the putative 'motor' domain, it is proposed that this domain is responsible for interactions with other proteins, vesicles, or organelles. These data suggest that kinesin has an organization very similar to that of myosin even though there are no obvious sequence similarities between the two molecules (Yang, 1989).

Kinesin heavy chain: Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

date revised: 10 February 2013

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