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Concept: Molecular motor

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Biological transport is supported by collective dynamics of enzymatic molecules that are called motor proteins or molecular motors. Experiments suggest that motor proteins interact locally via short-range potentials. We investigate the fundamental role of these interactions by analyzing a new class of totally asymmetric exclusion processes where interactions are accounted for in a thermodynamically consistent fashion. It allows us to connect explicitly microscopic features of motor proteins with their collective dynamic properties. Theoretical analysis that combines various mean-field calculations and computer simulations suggests that dynamic properties of molecular motors strongly depend on interactions, and correlations are stronger for interacting motor proteins. Surprisingly, it is found that there is an optimal strength of interactions (weak repulsion) that leads to a maximal particle flux. It is also argued that molecular motors transport is more sensitive to attractive interactions. Applications of these results for kinesin motor proteins are discussed.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Molecular biology, Atom, Actin, Molecular motor, Motor protein, Motor

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Multimeric, ring-shaped molecular motors rely on the coordinated action of their subunits to perform crucial biological functions. During these tasks, motors often change their operation in response to regulatory signals. Here, we investigate a viral packaging machine as it fills the capsid with DNA and encounters increasing internal pressure. We find that the motor rotates the DNA during packaging and that the rotation per base pair increases with filling. This change accompanies a reduction in the motor’s step size. We propose that these adjustments preserve motor coordination by allowing one subunit to make periodic, specific, and regulatory contacts with the DNA. At high filling, we also observe the downregulation of the ATP-binding rate and the emergence of long-lived pauses, suggesting a throttling-down mechanism employed by the motor near the completion of packaging. This study illustrates how a biological motor adjusts its operation in response to changing conditions, while remaining highly coordinated.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Motor control, Motor coordination, Molecular motor, Protein subunit, Motor

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Single-molecule picometer resolution nanopore tweezers (SPRNT) is a new tool for analyzing the motion of nucleic acids through molecular motors. With SPRNT, individual enzymatic motions along DNA as small as 40 pm can be resolved on sub-millisecond time scales. Additionally, SPRNT reveals an enzyme’s exact location with respect to a DNA strand’s nucleotide sequence, enabling identification of sequence-specific behaviors. SPRNT is enabled by a mutant version of the biological nanopore formed by Mycobacterium smegmatis porin A (MspA). SPRNT is strongly rooted in nanopore sequencing and therefore requires a solid understanding of basic principles of nanopore sequencing. Furthermore, SPRNT shares tools developed for nanopore sequencing and extends them to analysis of single-molecule kinetics. As such, this review begins with a brief history of our work developing the nanopore MspA for nanopore sequencing. We then describe the underlying principles of SPRNT, how it works in detail, and propose some potential future uses. We present the methods that will enable others to use SPRNT and we close with a comparison of SPRNT to other techniques.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Adenosine triphosphate, RNA, Nucleic acid, Nucleotide, Molecular motor

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BACKGROUND: Introduction of effective point-of-care devices for use in medical diagnostics is part of strategies to combat accelerating health-care costs. Molecular motor driven nanodevices have unique potentials in this regard due to unprecedented level of miniaturization and independence of external pumps. However motor function has been found to be inhibited by body fluids. RESULTS: We report here that a unique procedure, combining separation steps that rely on antibody-antigen interactions, magnetic forces applied to magnetic nanoparticles (MPs) and the specificity of the actomyosin bond, can circumvent the deleterious effects of body fluids (e.g. blood serum). The procedure encompasses the following steps: (i) capture of analyte molecules from serum by MP-antibody conjugates, (ii) pelleting of MP-antibody-analyte complexes, using a magnetic field, followed by exchange of serum for optimized biological buffer, (iii) mixing of MP-antibody-analyte complexes with actin filaments conjugated with same polyclonal antibodies as the magnetic nanoparticles. This causes complex formation: MP-antibody-analyte-antibody-actin, and magnetic separation is used to enrich the complexes. Finally (iv) the complexes are introduced into a nanodevice for specific binding via actin filaments to surface adsorbed molecular motors (heavy meromyosin). The number of actin filaments bound to the motors in the latter step was significantly increased above the control value if protein analyte (50–60 nM) was present in serum (in step i) suggesting appreciable formation and enrichment of the MP-antibody-analyte-antibody-actin complexes. Furthermore, addition of ATP demonstrated maintained heavy meromyosin driven propulsion of actin filaments showing that the serum induced inhibition was alleviated. Detailed analysis of the procedure i-iv, using fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy identified main targets for future optimization. CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate a promising approach for capturing analytes from serum for subsequent motor driven separation/detection. Indeed, the observed increase in actin filament number, in itself, signals the presence of analyte at clinically relevant nM concentration without the need for further motor driven concentration. Our analysis suggests that exchange of polyclonal for monoclonal antibodies would be a critical improvement, opening for a first clinically useful molecular motor driven lab-on-a-chip device.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Magnetic field, Blood, Magnetism, Actin, Molecular motor, Motor

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The design of artificial molecular machines often takes inspiration from macroscopic machines. However, the parallels between the two systems are often only superficial, because most molecular machines are governed by quantum processes. Previously, rotary molecular motors powered by light and chemical energy have been developed. In electrically driven motors, tunnelling electrons from the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope have been used to drive the rotation of a simple rotor in a single direction and to move a four-wheeled molecule across a surface. Here, we show that a stand-alone molecular motor adsorbed on a gold surface can be made to rotate in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction by selective inelastic electron tunnelling through different subunits of the motor. Our motor is composed of a tripodal stator for vertical positioning, a five-arm rotor for controlled rotations, and a ruthenium atomic ball bearing connecting the static and rotational parts. The directional rotation arises from sawtooth-like rotational potentials, which are solely determined by the internal molecular structure and are independent of the surface adsorption site.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Molecule, Chemistry, Atom, Molecular motor, Rotation, Motor

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Molecular motors embedded within collections of actin and microtubule filaments underlie the dynamics of cytoskeletal assemblies. Understanding the physics of such motor-filament materials is critical to developing a physical model of the cytoskeleton and designing biomimetic active materials. Here, we demonstrate through experiments and simulations that the rigidity and connectivity of filaments in active biopolymer networks regulates the anisotropy and the length scale of the underlying deformations, yielding materials with variable contractility. We find that semiflexible filaments can be compressed and bent by motor stresses, yielding materials that undergo predominantly biaxial deformations. By contrast, rigid filament bundles slide without bending under motor stress, yielding materials that undergo predominantly uniaxial deformations. Networks dominated by biaxial deformations are robustly contractile over a wide range of connectivities, while networks dominated by uniaxial deformations can be tuned from extensile to contractile through cross-linking. These results identify physical parameters that control the forces generated within motor-filament arrays and provide insight into the self-organization and mechanics of cytoskeletal assemblies.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Actin, Myosin, Cytoskeleton, Molecular motor, Microtubule, Motor, Deformation

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Motor proteins are nature’s solution for directing movement at the molecular level. The field of artificial molecular motors takes inspiration from these tiny but powerful machines. Although directional motion on the nanoscale performed by synthetic molecular machines is a relatively new development, significant advances have been made. In this review an overview is given of the principal designs of artificial molecular motors and their modes of operation. Although synthetic molecular motors have also found widespread application as (multistate) switches, we focus on the control of directional movement, both at the molecular scale and at larger magnitudes. We identify some key challenges remaining in the field.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Molecular biology, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Molecular motor, Motor, Molecular machine

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Improving our understanding of biological motors, both to fully comprehend their activities in vital processes, and to exploit their impressive abilities for use in bionanotechnology, is highly desirable. One means of understanding these systems is through the production of synthetic molecular motors. We demonstrate the use of orthogonal coiled-coil dimers (including both parallel and anti-parallel coiled-coils) as a hub for linking other components of a previously described synthetic molecular motor, the Tumbleweed. We use circular dichroism, analytical ultracentrifugation, dynamic light scattering and disulfide rearrangement studies to demonstrate the ability of this six-peptide set to form the specific structure required for the Tumbleweed motor. The successful formation of a suitable hub structure is both a test of the transferability of design rules for protein folding as well as an important step in the production of a synthetic protein-based molecular motor.

Concepts: Molecular motor

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Molecular motors produce force when they interact with their cellular tracks. For myosin motors, the primary force-generating state has MgADP tightly bound, whereas myosin is strongly bound to actin. We have generated an 8-Å cryoEM reconstruction of this state for myosin V and used molecular dynamics flexed fitting for model building. We compare this state to the subsequent state on actin (Rigor). The ADP-bound structure reveals that the actin-binding cleft is closed, even though MgADP is tightly bound. This state is accomplished by a previously unseen conformation of the β-sheet underlying the nucleotide pocket. The transition from the force-generating ADP state to Rigor requires a 9.5° rotation of the myosin lever arm, coupled to a β-sheet rearrangement. Thus, the structure reveals the detailed rearrangements underlying myosin force generation as well as the basis of strain-dependent ADP release that is essential for processive myosins, such as myosin V.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Torque, Actin, Myosin, Cytoskeleton, Molecular motor, Simple machine

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Ring NTPases are a class of ubiquitous molecular motors involved in basic biological partitioning processes. dsDNA viruses encode ring ATPases that translocate their genomes to near-crystalline densities within pre-assembled viral capsids. Here, X-ray crystallography, cryoEM, and biochemical analyses of the dsDNA packaging motor in bacteriophage phi29 show how individual subunits are arranged in a pentameric ATPase ring and suggest how their activities are coordinated to translocate dsDNA. The resulting pseudo-atomic structure of the motor and accompanying functional analyses show how ATP is bound in the ATPase active site; identify two DNA contacts, including a potential DNA translocating loop; demonstrate that a trans-acting arginine finger is involved in coordinating hydrolysis around the ring; and suggest a functional coupling between the arginine finger and the DNA translocating loop. The ability to visualize the motor in action illuminates how the different motor components interact with each other and with their DNA substrate.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Virus, Genome, Bacteriophage, X-ray crystallography, Molecular motor