We cloned a new member of the murine brain kinesin superfamily, KIF3B, and found that its amino acid sequence is highly homologous but not identical to KIF3A, which we previously cloned and named KIF3 (47% identical). KIF3B is localized in various organ tissues and developing neurons of mice and accumulates with anterogradely moving membranous organelles after ligation of nerve axons. Immunoprecipitation assay of the brain revealed that KIF3B forms a complex with KIF3A and three other high molecular weight (approximately 100 kD)-associated polypeptides, called the kinesin superfamily-associated protein 3 (KAP3). In vitro reconstruction using baculovirus expression systems showed that KIF3A and KIF3B directly bind with each other in the absence of KAP3. The recombinant KIF3A/B complex (approximately 50-nm rod with two globular heads and a single globular tail) demonstrated plus end-directed microtubule sliding activity in vitro. In addition, we showed that KIF3B itself has motor activity in vitro, by making a complex of wild-type KIF3B and a chimeric motor protein (KIF3B head and KIF3A rod tail). Subcellular fractionation of mouse brain homogenates showed a considerable amount of the native KIF3 complex to be associated with membrane fractions other than synaptic vesicles. Immunoprecipitation by anti-KIF3B antibody-conjugated beads and its electron microscopic study also revealed that KIF3 is associated with membranous organelles. Moreover, we found that the composition of KAP3 is different in the brain and testis. Our findings suggest that KIF3B forms a heterodimer with KIF3A and functions as a new microtubule-based anterograde translocator for membranous organelles, and that KAP3 may determine functional diversity of the KIF3 complex in various kinds of cells in vivo.

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