Force-Induced Bidirectional Stepping of Cytoplasmic Dynein

Arne Gennerich, Andrew P. Carter, Samara L. Reck-Peterson, Ronald D. Vale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

312 Scopus citations


Cytoplasmic dynein is a minus-end-directed microtubule motor whose mechanism of movement remains poorly understood. Here, we use optical tweezers to examine the force-dependent stepping behavior of yeast cytoplasmic dynein. We find that dynein primarily advances in 8 nm increments but takes other sized steps (4-24 nm) as well. An opposing force induces more frequent backward stepping by dynein, and the motor walks backward toward the microtubule plus end at loads above its stall force of 7 pN. Remarkably, in the absence of ATP, dynein steps processively along microtubules under an external load, with less force required for minus-end- than for plus-end-directed movement. This nucleotide-independent walking reveals that force alone can drive repetitive microtubule detachment-attachment cycles of dynein's motor domains. These results suggest a model for how dynein's two motor domains coordinate their activities during normal processive motility and provide new clues for understanding dynein-based motility in living cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)952-965
Number of pages14
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 30 2007
Externally publishedYes



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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