Publication Date



Published in the Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics, 52:19-29 2008.


Motor proteins convert chemical energy into work, thereby generating persistent motion of cellular and subcellular objects. The velocities of motor proteins as a function of opposing loads have been previously determined in vitro for single motors. These single molecule "force-velocity curves" have been useful for elucidating motor kinetics and for estimating motor performance under physiological loads due to, for example, the cytoplasmic drag force on transported organelles. Here we report forcevelocity curves for single and multiple motors measured in vivo. Using motion enhanced differential interference contrast (MEDIC) movies of living NT2 (neuron-committed teratocarcinoma) cells at 37°C, three parameters were measured-velocity (v), radius (a), and effective cytoplasmic viscosity (n1)-as they applied to moving vesicles. These parameters were combined in Stokes' equation, F= 6panv1, to determine the force, F, required to transport a single intracellular particle at velocity, v. In addition, the number of active motors was inferred from the multimodal pattern seen in a normalized velocity histogram. Using this inference, the resulting in vivo force-velocity curve for a single motor agrees with previously reported in vitro single motor force-velocity curves. Interestingly, however, the curves for two and three motors lie significantly higher in both measured velocity and computed force, which suggests that motors can work cooperatively to attain higher transport forces and velocities.