Abstract: Series 109, Lecture 4

The Harvey Lectures Series 109 (2013—2014)

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Lecture #4: Thursday, February 20, 2014 — Watch Video of Lecture

The Marvels of Molecular Motors

Ronald D Vale, PhD

Ronald D Vale, PhD

Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco

San Francisco, California

Dr Vale's Website

Life and movement are synonymous. Muscles contract, cilia beat, cells crawl, chromosomes move, and a myriad of cargoes (organelles, mRNAs, protein complexes) are transported within the cell interior. Much of this movement is driven by molecular motors that move along cytoskeletal tracks. Our laboratory has studied the microtubule-based motor protein kinesin for more than two decades. By combining single molecule observations, structural biology approaches and protein engineering, we have developed a model for how the two motor domains of the kinesin dimer move hand-over-hand along the microtubule track. More recently, we are focusing on the dynein motor, a much more complicated machine that we are just beginning to understand at a detailed structural level. The work on molecular motors also illustrates how the many protein machines encoded by the genome can be studied and why such studies are important for human health and disease.