Comparative analysis of two Caenorhabditis elegans kinesins KLP-6 and UNC-104 reveals common and distinct activation mechanisms in kinesin-3

  1. Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Katahira 2-1, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8577, Japan
  2. Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences (FRIS), Tohoku University, Aramaki-Aoba 6-3, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-0845, Japan
  3. Institute for Protein Research, Osaka University, Yamadaoka 3-2, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan


  • Reviewing Editor
    Junmin Pan
    Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • Senior Editor
    Piali Sengupta
    Brandeis University, Waltham, United States of America

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

The regulation of motor autoinhibition and activation is essential for efficient intracellular transport. This manuscript used biochemical approaches to explore two members in the kinesin-3 family. They found that releasing UNC-104 autoinhibition triggered its dimerization whereas unlocking KLP-6 autoinhibition is insufficient to activate its processive movement, which suggests that KLP-6 requires additional factors for activation, highlighting the common and diverse mechanisms underlying motor activation. They also identified a coiled-coil domain crucial for the dimerization and processive movement of UNC-104. Overall, these biochemical and single-molecule assays were well performed, and their data support their statements. The manuscript is also clearly written, and these results will be valuable to the field.

Ideally, the authors can add some in vivo studies to test the physiological relevance of their in vitro findings, given that the lab is very good at worm genetic manipulations. Otherwise, the authors should speculate the in vivo phenotypes in their Discussion, including E412K mutation in UNC-104, CC2 deletion of UNC-104, D458A in KLP-6.

While beyond the scope of this study, can the author speculate on the candidate for an additional regulator to activate KLP-6 in C. elegans?

The authors discussed the differences between their porcine brain MTs and chlamydonomas axonemes in UNC-104 assays. However, the authors did not really retest UNC-104 on axonemes after more than two decades, thereby not excluding other possibilities.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

The Kinesin superfamily motors mediate the transport of a wide variety of cargos which are crucial for cells to develop into unique shapes and polarities. Kinesin-3 subfamily motors are among the most conserved and critical classes of kinesin motors which were shown to be self-inhibited in a monomeric state and dimerized to activate motility along microtubules. Recent studies have shown that different members of this family are uniquely activated to undergo a transition from monomers to dimers.

Niwa and colleagues study two well-described members of the kinesin-3 superfamily, unc104 and KLP6, to uncover the mechanism of monomer to dimer transition upon activation. Their studies reveal that although both Unc104 and KLP6 are both self-inhibited monomers, their propensities for forming dimers are quite different. The authors relate this difference to a region in the molecules called CC2 which has a higher propensity for forming homodimers. Unc104 readily forms homodimers if its self-inhibited state is disabled while KLP6 does not.

The work suggests that although mechanisms for self-inhibited monomeric states are similar, variations in the kinesin-3 dimerization may present a unique form of kinesin-3 motor regulation with implications on the forms of motility functions carried out by these unique kinesin-3 motors.

Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

In this work, Kita et al., aim to understand the activation mechanisms of the kinesin-3 motors KLP-6 and UNC-104 from C. elegans. As with many other motor proteins involved in intracellular transport processes, KLP-6 and UNC-104 motors suppress their ATPase activities in the absence of cargo molecules. Relieving the autoinhibition is thus a crucial step that initiates the directional transport of intracellular cargo. To investigate the activation mechanisms, the authors make use of mass photometry to determine the oligomeric states of the full-length KLP-6 and the truncated UNC-104(1-653) motors at sub-micromolar concentrations. While full-length KLP-6 remains monomeric, the truncated UNC-104(1-653) displays a sub-population of dimeric motors that is much more pronounced at high concentrations, suggesting a monomer-to-dimer conversion. The authors push this equilibrium towards dimeric UNC-104(1-653) motors solely by introducing a point mutation into the coiled-coil domain and ultimately unleashing a robust processivity of the UNC-104 dimer. The authors find that the same mechanistic concept does not apply to the KLP-6 kinesin-3 motor, suggesting an alternative activation mechanism of the KLP-6 that remains to be resolved. The present study encourages further dissection of the kinesin-3 motors with the goal of uncovering the main factors needed to overcome the 'self-inflicted' deactivation.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation