Mechanism of cooperative behaviour in systems of slow and fast molecular motors†
Two recent theoretical advances have described cargo transport by multiple identical motors and by multiple oppositely directed, but otherwise identical motors [M. J. Muller, S. Klumpp and R. Lipowsky, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 2008, 105(12), 4609–4614; S. Klumpp and R. Lipowsky, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 2005, 102(48), 17284–17289]. Here, we combine a similar theoretical approach with a simple experiment to describe the behaviour of a system comprised of slow and fast molecular motors having the same directionality. We observed the movement of microtubules by mixtures of slow and fast kinesin motors attached to a glass coverslip in a classic sliding filament assay. The motors are identical, except that the slow ones contain five point mutations that collectively reduce their velocity ∼15-fold without compromising maximal ATPase activity. Our results indicate that a small fraction of fast motors are able to accelerate the dissociation of slow motors from microtubules. Because of this, a sharp, highly cooperative transition occurs from slow to fast microtubule movement as the relative number of fast motors in the assay is increased. Microtubules move at half-maximal velocity when only 15% of the motors in the assay are fast. Our model indicates that this behaviour depends primarily on the relative motor velocities and the asymmetry between their forward and backward dissociation forces. It weakly depends on the number of motors and their processivity. We predict that movement of cargoes bound to two types of motors having very different velocities will be dominated by one or the other motor. Therefore, cargoes can potentially undergo abrupt changes in movement in response to regulatory mechanisms acting on only a small fraction of motors.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Physical chemistry of biomolecular motors and machines