To live is to move. You strike to swat that irritable mosquito, which skilfully evades the hand of death. How did that happen? Who moved your hand, and what saved the mosquito? Enter the Molecular Motors, nanoscale protein-machines in the muscles of your hand and wings of the mosquito. You need these motors to swat mosquitoes, blink your eyes, walk, eat, drink... just name it. Millions of motors tug as a team within your muscles, and you swat the mosquito. This is teamwork at its exquisite best.
Paradoxically, a weak and inefficient motor (called dynein) is the one that generates large forces in many different biological processes. Why has nature made this counter-intuitive choice? Scientists at TIFR, led by Dr. Roop Mallik, have discovered that a team of dyneins is able to share a load much larger than any one of them can handle, due to the unique ability of each dynein to change gears. Because of this, dynein's do much better at teamwork than other stronger motors that cannot change gears. This work will be published in the top-tier journal Cellin January 2013.
This is the PhD thesis work of Arpan Rai, who was ably supported by members of Mallik's team, Ashim Rai, Avin Ramaiya and Rupam Jha. This group of young students took a laser beam and focused it down to a tiny spot inside a mouse cell. Small objects inside the cell which were being moved around by motors could be trapped in this laser beam. Now, the motors tried their best to pull this object out of this "laser trap". The figure shows an artist's rendition of such an object being pulled out of the laser trap by four dynein motors. Mallik says: "Each dynein showed a special ability to shift gears, just like you shift gears in your car to go uphill. Therefore, each dynein in a team could speed up or slow down, depending how hard it was pulled back. This allowed the dyneins to bunch close together as they were pulling. The bunching helped dyneins to share their load equitably, and therefore work efficiently to generate large forces. Remarkably, motor-teams made up of another motor (called kinesin) which is much stronger than dynein, could not generate comparable forces. The reason? Well … you guessed it right. Kinesin does not have a gear!!"
Taken together, these new studies show that Nature may have learnt how to use the gear in a motor much before we made our Ferrari's and Lamborghini's. But, what boggles the mind is that dynein's gear works on a size scale that is ten-million times smaller than the Ferrari's gear.
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research: http://www.tifr.res.in
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Scientists circumnavigating the globe on a spartan racing catamaran will spend the coming year deploying drones to collect better data on plastic pollution
A patch of gold electrodes you can wear behind your ear for up to two weeks will track your brainwaves 24/7 and let you control devices with your mind
Scientists have peeked inside the brain of a man with tinnitus to identify the brainwaves that underlie the debilitating sensation of ringing in the ear
For extinct creatures like dinosaurs known only from fossils, it is notoriously difficult to differentiate the males from the females of a species because sex distinctions are rarely obvious from the skeletons.
The most complete genetic information assembled on woolly mammoths is providing insight into their demise, revealing they suffered two population crashes before a final, severely inbred group succumbed on an Arctic Ocean island.
More than 30 million crows fly around the country, but among all creatures, the birds may be among the least understood. Ben Tracy reports on new research into crows' brains.
Mouse study demonstrates method to target mutations in DNA inherited from mother
After consulting a "stud book," the Zoo brought a male panda's sperm back to D.C., setting an exciting precedent
Stegosaurs may have sported quite different shaped bony plates on their backs, depending on whether they were male or female, new research claims.
Targeting a protein that causes rampant growth of cells in retinal blood vessels could lead to new treatments for vision loss in older people