Kinesin-14 motors drive a right-handed helical motion of antiparallel microtubules around each other

Aniruddha Mitra, Laura Meißner, Rojapriyadharshini Gandhimathi, Roman Renger, Felix Ruhnow, Stefan Diez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Within the mitotic spindle, kinesin motors cross-link and slide overlapping microtubules. Some of these motors exhibit off-axis power strokes, but their impact on motility and force generation in microtubule overlaps has not been investigated. Here, we develop and utilize a three-dimensional in vitro motility assay to explore kinesin-14, Ncd, driven sliding of cross-linked microtubules. We observe that free microtubules, sliding on suspended microtubules, not only rotate around their own axis but also move around the suspended microtubules with right-handed helical trajectories. Importantly, the associated torque is large enough to cause microtubule twisting and coiling. Further, our technique allows us to measure the in situ spatial extension of the motors between cross-linked microtubules to be about 20 nm. We argue that the capability of microtubule-crosslinking kinesins to cause helical motion of overlapping microtubules around each other allows for flexible filament organization, roadblock circumvention and torque generation in the mitotic spindle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2565
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date22 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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