Intracellular transport in neurons is driven by molecular motors that carry many different cargos along cytoskeletal tracks in axons and dendrites. Identifying how motors interact with specific types of transport vesicles has been challenging. Here, we use engineered motors and cargo adaptors to systematically investigate the selectivity and regulation of kinesin-3 family member KIF1A–driven transport of dense core vesicles (DCVs), lysosomes, and synaptic vesicles (SVs). We dissect the role of KIF1A domains in motor activity and show that CC1 regulates autoinhibition, CC2 regulates motor dimerization, and CC3 and PH mediate cargo binding. Furthermore, we identify that phosphorylation of KIF1A is critical for binding to vesicles. Cargo specificity is achieved by specific KIF1A adaptors; MADD/Rab3GEP links KIF1A to SVs, and Arf-like GTPase Arl8A mediates interactions with DCVs and lysosomes. We propose a model where motor dimerization, posttranslational modifications, and specific adaptors regulate selective KIF1A cargo trafficking.

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