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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 26;104(52):20832-7. Epub 2007 Dec 19.

Three-dimensional structure of cytoplasmic dynein bound to microtubules.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390-9039, USA.


Cytoplasmic dynein is a large, microtubule-dependent molecular motor (1.2 MDa). Although the structure of dynein by itself has been characterized, its conformation in complex with microtubules is still unknown. Here, we used cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualize the interaction between dynein and microtubules. Most dynein molecules in the nucleotide-free state are bound to the microtubule in a defined conformation and orientation. A 3D image reconstruction revealed that dynein's head domain, formed by a ring-like arrangement of AAA+ domains, is located approximately 280 A away from the center of the microtubule. The order of the AAA+ domains in the ring was determined by using recombinant markers. Furthermore, a 3D helical image reconstruction of microtubules with a dynein's microtubule binding domain [dynein stalk (DS)] revealed that the stalk extends perpendicular to the microtubule. By combining the 3D maps of the dynein-microtubule and DS-microtubule complexes, we present a model for how dynein in the nucleotide-free state binds to microtubules and discuss models for dynein's power stroke.

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