Biochemical, pharmacological and immunocytochemical studies have implicated the microtubule-activated ATPase, kinesin, in the movement of membrane bounded organelles in fast axonal transport. In vitro studies suggested that kinesin moves organelles preferentially in the anterograde direction, but data about the function and precise localization of kinesin in the living axon were lacking. The current study was undertaken to establish whether kinesin associates with anterograde or retrograde moving organelles in vivo. Peripheral nerves were ligated to produce accumulations of organelles moving in defined directions. Regions proximal (anterograde) and distal (retrograde) to the ligation were analyzed for kinesin localization by immunofluorescence, and by immunogold electron microscopy using ultracryomicrotomy. Substantial amounts of kinesin were associated with anterograde moving organelles on the proximal side, while significantly less kinesin was detected distally. Statistical analyses indicated that kinesin was mostly associated with membrane-bounded organelles. These observations indicate that axonal kinesin is primarily associated with anterograde moving organelles in vivo.

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