Kinesin is known as a representative cytoskeletal motor protein that is engaged in cell division and axonal transport. In addition to the mutant assay, recent advances using the PCR cloning technique have elucidated the existence of many kinds of kinesin-related proteins in yeast, Drosophila, and mice. We previously cloned five different members of kinesin superfamily proteins (KIFs) in mouse brain (Aizawa, H., Y. Sekine, R. Takemura, Z. Zhang, M. Nangaku, and N. Hirokawa. 1992. J. Cell Biol. 119:1287-1296) and demonstrated that one of them, KIF3A, is an anterograde motor (Kondo, S., R. Sato-Yashitake, Y. Noda, H. Aizawa, T. Nakata, Y. Matsuura, and N. Hirokawa. J. Cell Biol. 1994. 125:1095-1107). We have now characterized another axonal transport motor, KIF2. Different from other KIFs, KIF2 is a central type motor, since its motor domain is located in the center of the molecule. Recombinant KIF2 exists as a dimer with a bigger head and plus-end directionally moves microtubules at a velocity of 0.47 +/- 0.11 microns/s, which is two thirds that of kinesin's. Immunocytological examination showed that native KIF2 is abundant in developing axons and that it accumulates in the proximal region of the ligated nerves after a 20-h ligation. Soluble KIF2 exists without a light chain, and KIF2's associated-vesicles, immunoprecipitated by anti-KIF2 antibody, are different from those carried by existing motors such as kinesin and KIF3A. They are also distinct from synaptic vesicles, although KIF2 is accumulated in so-called synaptic vesicle fractions and embryonal growth cone particles. Our results strongly suggest that KIF2 functions as a new anterograde motor, being specialized for a particular group of membranous organelles involved in fast axonal transport.

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