To understand the mechanisms of transport for organelles in the axon, we isolated and sequenced the cDNA encoding KIF4 from murine brain, and characterized the molecule biochemically and immunocytochemically. Complete amino acid sequence analysis of KIF4 and ultrastructural studies of KIF4 molecules expressed in Sf9 cells revealed that the protein contains 1,231 amino acid residues (M(r) 139,550) and that the molecule (116-nm rod with globular heads and tail) consists of three domains: an NH2-terminal globular motor domain, a central alpha-helical stalk domain and a COOH-terminal tail domain. KIF4 protein has the property of nucleotide-dependent binding to microtubules, microtubule-activated ATPase activity, and microtubule plus-end-directed motility. Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization demonstrated that KIF4 is strongly expressed in juvenile tissues including differentiated young neurons, while its expression is decreased considerably in adult mice except in spleen. Immunocytochemical studies revealed that KIF4 colocalized with membranous organelles both in growth cones of differentiated neurons and in the cytoplasm of cultured fibroblasts. During mitotic phase of cell cycle, KIF4 appears to colocalize with membranous organelles in the mitotic spindle. Hence we conclude that KIF4 is a novel microtubule-associated anterograde motor protein for membranous organelles, the expression of which is regulated developmentally.

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