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How Molecular Motors Are Arranged on a Cargo Is Important for Vesicular Transport


The spatial organization of the cell depends upon intracellular trafficking of cargos hauled along microtubules and actin filaments by the molecular motor proteins kinesin, dynein, and myosin. Although much is known about how single motors function, there is significant evidence that cargos in vivo are carried by multiple motors. While some aspects of multiple motor function have received attention, how the cargo itself - and motor organization on the cargo-affects transport has not been considered. To address this, we have developed a three-dimensional Monte Carlo simulation of motors transporting a spherical cargo, subject to thermal fluctuations that produce both rotational and translational diffusion. We found that these fluctuations could exert a load on the motor(s), significantly decreasing the mean travel distance and velocity of large cargos, especially at large viscosities. In addition, the presence of the cargo could dramatically help the motor to bind productively to the microtubule: the relatively slow translational and rotational diffusion of moderately sized cargos gave the motors ample opportunity to bind to a microtubule before the motor/cargo ensemble diffuses out of range of that microtubule. For rapidly diffusing cargos, the probability of their binding to a microtubule was high if there were nearby microtubules that they could easily reach by translational diffusion. Our simulations found that one reason why motors may be approximately 100 nm long is to improve their 'on' rates when attached to comparably sized cargos. Finally, our results suggested that to efficiently regulate the number of active motors, motors should be clustered together rather than spread randomly over the surface of the cargo. While our simulation uses the specific parameters for kinesin, these effects result from generic properties of the motors, cargos, and filaments, so they should apply to other motors as well.

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