Coordination of opposite-polarity microtubule motors

Steven P. Gross, Michael A. Welte, Steven M. Block, Eric F. Wieschaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Scopus citations


Many cargoes move bidirectionally, frequently reversing course between plus- and minus-end microtubule travel. For such cargoes, the extent and importance of interactions between the opposite-polarity motors is unknown. In this paper we test whether oppositepolarity motors on lipid droplets in Drosophila embryos are coordinated and avoid interfering with each other's activity, or whether they engage in a tug of war. To this end we impaired the minus-end transport machinery using dynein and dynactin mutations, and then investigated whether plus-end motion was improved or disrupted. We observe a surprisingly severe impairment of plus-end motion due to these alterations of minus-end motor activity. These observations are consistent with a coordination hypothesis, but cannot be easily explained with a tug of war model. Our measurements indicate that dynactin plays a crucial role in the coordination of plus- and minus-end-directed motors. Specifically, we propose that dynactin enables dynein to participate efficiently in bidirectional transport, increasing its ability to stay "on" during minus-end motion and keeping it "off" during plus-end motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-724
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 18 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology


  • Bidirectional
  • Cytoplasmic dynein
  • Dynactin
  • Motor coordination
  • Tug of war


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