Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Rotation of endosomes demonstrates coordination of molecular motors during axonal transport

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Science Advances  07 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, e1602170
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602170

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Abstract

Long-distance axonal transport is critical to the maintenance and function of neurons. Robust transport is ensured by the coordinated activities of multiple molecular motors acting in a team. Conventional live-cell imaging techniques used in axonal transport studies detect this activity by visualizing the translational dynamics of a cargo. However, translational measurements are insensitive to torques induced by motor activities. By using gold nanorods and multichannel polarization microscopy, we simultaneously measure the rotational and translational dynamics for thousands of axonally transported endosomes. We find that the rotational dynamics of an endosome provide complementary information regarding molecular motor activities to the conventionally tracked translational dynamics. Rotational dynamics correlate with translational dynamics, particularly in cases of increased rotation after switches between kinesin- and dynein-mediated transport. Furthermore, unambiguous measurement of nanorod angle shows that endosome-contained nanorods align with the orientation of microtubules, suggesting a direct mechanical linkage between the ligand-receptor complex and the microtubule motors.

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