Published: April 30, 2009
data plot

L. E. Hough, A. Schwabe, M. A. Glaser, J. R. McIntosh, and M. D. Betterton (2009). Biophysical Journal 96, 3050. arXiv:0812.3908. Download.

Proteins from the kinesin-8 family promote microtubule (MT) depolymerization, a process thought to be important for the control of microtubule length in living cells. In addition to this MT shortening activity, kinesin 8s are motors that show plusend directed motility on MTs. Here we describe a simple model that incorporates directional motion and destabilization of the MT plus-end by kinesin 8. Our model quantitatively reproduces the key features of length-versus-time traces for stabilized MTs in the presence of purified kinesin 8, including length-dependent depolymerization. Comparison of model predictions with experiments suggests that kinesin 8 depolymerizes processively, i.e., one motor can remove multiple tubulin dimers from a stabilized MT. Fluctuations in MT length as a function of time are related to depolymerization processivity. We have also determined the parameter regime in which the rate of MT depolymerization is length dependent: length-dependent depolymerization occurs only when MTs are sufficiently short; this crossover is sensitive to the bulk motor concentration.