Multiple ant-like transport of neuronal cargo by motor proteins

February 5, 2018, Tohoku University
Cargo transport by many motors makes neuronal activity fine. Credit: Kumiko Hayashi

Microtubules are roads made of proteins that extend throughout a cell for motor proteins (carriers) to deliver neuronal cargo packed with many kinds of materials required for cellular activity. The delivery is active along neuronal axons, which function like highways in human societies. Deficits in the supply chain cause neuronal diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or Huntington's disease.

Dr. Kumiko Hayashi and Dr. Shinsuke Niwa, assistant professors of Tohoku University, have successfully estimated the force exerted by acting on neuronal cargo in living worms using a newly developed, noninvasive force measurement method (Ref. 1). The force values indicate that a number of carriers are involved in neuronal cargo delivery.

The research shows that cargo packed with synapses was carried cooperatively by multiple motor proteins, much like a group of ants working together, to carry an item too large for any individual motor to carry alone. The number of carriers was found to decrease in mutant worms as indicated by the force measurement. The decrease weakened the cargo transport and caused the mis-location of synapses reported recently (Ref. 2). The material delivery by lots of carriers in highway-like axons ensures healthy neuronal activity and is a significant finding in the field.

Despite the need of physical measurements for neuronal cargo transport, it has been difficult to measure force in vivo, until now. The noninvasive force measurement method based on the fluctuation theorem (Ref. 3) enabled measurement by analyzing the fluctuating behavior of vesicles in the cytosol subject to thermal noise and so on. Movement can easily be observed using fluorescence microscopy. Hayashi and Niwa expect the non-invasive measurement method to be a useful tool in understanding the physical mechanism of neuronal diseases caused by deficits in axonal transport.

Explore further: Resolving traffic jams in human ALS motor neurons

More information: Kumiko Hayashi et al, Non-invasive force measurement reveals the number of active kinesins on a synaptic vesicle precursor in axonal transport regulated by ARL-8, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (2018). DOI: 10.1039/C7CP05890J

Related Stories

Resolving traffic jams in human ALS motor neurons

October 17, 2017

A team of researchers at VIB and KU Leuven used stem cell technology to generate motor neurons from ALS patients carrying mutations in FUS. They found disturbed axonal transport in these motor neurons, but also identified ...

Unraveling how prion proteins move along axons in the brain

February 17, 2011

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the motors that move non-infectious prion proteins (PrPC) – found within many mammalian cells – up and down long, neuronal ...

Recommended for you

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.