World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Molecular motor

Article Id: WHEBN0002765047
Reproduction Date:

Title: Molecular motor  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Carbon nanotube nanomotor, Dynamin, Biocomplexity, Molecular machines, Aquatic locomotion
Collection: Biophysics, Cell Movement, Molecular MacHines
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Molecular motor

Molecular motors are biological motor may be defined as a device that consumes energy in one form and converts it into motion or mechanical work; for example, many protein-based molecular motors harness the chemical free energy released by the hydrolysis of ATP in order to perform mechanical work.[1] In terms of energetic efficiency, this type of motor can be superior to currently available man-made motors. One important difference between molecular motors and macroscopic motors is that molecular motors operate in the thermal bath, an environment in which the fluctuations due to thermal noise are significant.


  • Examples 1
  • Theoretical considerations 2
  • Experimental observation 3
  • Non-biological 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Some examples of biologically important molecular motors:[2]

  • Cytoskeletal motors
    • Myosins are responsible for muscle contraction, intracellular cargo transport, and producing cellular tension.
    • Kinesin moves cargo inside cells away from the nucleus along microtubules.
    • Dynein produces the axonemal beating of cilia and flagella and also transports cargo along microtubules towards the cell nucleus.
  • Polymerisation motors
    • Actin polymerization generates forces and can be used for propulsion. ATP is used.
    • Microtubule polymerization using GTP.
    • Dynamin is responsible for the separation of clathrin buds from the plasma membrane. GTP is used.
  • Rotary motors:
    • FoF1-ATP synthase family of proteins convert the chemical energy in ATP to the electrochemical potential energy of a proton gradient across a membrane or the other way around. The catalysis of the chemical reaction and the movement of protons are coupled to each other via the mechanical rotation of parts of the complex. This is involved in ATP synthesis in the mitochondria and chloroplasts as well as in pumping of protons across the vacuolar membrane.[3]
    • The bacterial flagellum responsible for the swimming and tumbling of E. coli and other bacteria acts as a rigid propeller that is powered by a rotary motor. This motor is driven by the flow of protons across a membrane, possibly using a similar mechanism to that found in the Fo motor in ATP synthase.
  • Nucleic acid motors:
    • RNA polymerase transcribes RNA from a DNA template.[4]
    • DNA polymerase turns single-stranded DNA into double-stranded DNA.[5]
    • Helicases separate double strands of nucleic acids prior to transcription or replication. ATP is used.
    • Topoisomerases reduce supercoiling of DNA in the cell. ATP is used.
    • RSC and SWI/SNF complexes remodel chromatin in eukaryotic cells. ATP is used.
    • SMC protein responsible for chromosome condensation in eukaryotic cells.[6]
    • Viral DNA packaging motors inject viral genomic DNA into capsids as part of their replication cycle, packing it very tightly.[7] Several models have been put forward to explain how the protein generates the force required to drive the DNA into the capsid; for a review, see [1]. An alternative proposal is that, in contrast with all other biological motors, the force is not generated directly by the protein, but by the DNA itself.[8] In this model, ATP hydrolysis is used to drive protein conformational changes that alternatively dehydrate and rehydrate the DNA, cyclically driving it from B-DNA to A-DNA and back again. A-DNA is 23% shorter than B-DNA, and the DNA shrink/expand cycle is coupled to a protein-DNA grip/release cycle to generate the forward motion that propels DNA into the capsid.
  • Synthetic molecular motors have been created by chemists that yield rotation, possibly generating torque.

Theoretical considerations

Because the motor events are stochastic, molecular motors are often modeled with the Fokker-Planck equation or with Monte Carlo methods. These theoretical models are especially useful when treating the molecular motor as a Brownian motor.

Experimental observation

In experimental biophysics, the activity of molecular motors is observed with many different experimental approaches, among them:

  • Fluorescent methods: fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF).
  • Magnetic tweezers can also be useful for analysis of motors that operate on long pieces of DNA.
  • Neutron spin echo spectroscopy can be used to observe motion on nanosecond timescales.
  • Optical tweezers are well-suited for studying molecular motors because of their low spring constants.
  • Single-molecule electrophysiology can be used to measure the dynamics of individual ion channels.

Many more techniques are also used. As new technologies and methods are developed, it is expected that knowledge of naturally occurring molecular motors will be helpful in constructing synthetic nanoscale motors.


Recently, chemists and those involved in nanotechnology have begun to explore the possibility of creating molecular motors de novo. These synthetic molecular motors currently suffer many limitations that confine their use to the research laboratory. However, many of these limitations may be overcome as our understanding of chemistry and physics at the nanoscale increases. Systems like the nanocars, while not technically motors, are illustrative of recent efforts towards synthetic nanoscale motors.

See also


  1. ^ Bustamante C, Chemla YR, Forde NR, Izhaky D (2004). "Mechanical processes in biochemistry". Annu. Rev. Biochem. 73: 705–48.  
  2. ^ Nelson, P.; M. Radosavljevic; S. Bromberg (2004). Biological physics. Freeman. 
  3. ^ Tsunoda SP, Aggeler R, Yoshida M, Capaldi RA (January 2001). "Rotation of the c subunit oligomer in fully functional F1Fo ATP synthase". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98 (3): 898–902.  
  4. ^ Dworkin J, Losick R (October 2002). "Does RNA polymerase help drive chromosome segregation in bacteria?". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99 (22): 14089–94.  
  5. ^ I. Hubscher, U.; Maga, G.; Spadari, S. (2002). "Eukaryotic DNA polymerases". Annual Review of Biochemistry 71: 133–63.  
  6. ^ Peterson C (1994). "The SMC family: novel motor proteins for chromosome condensation?". Cell 79 (3): 389–92.  
  7. ^ Smith DE, Tans SJ, Smith SB, Grimes S, Anderson DL, Bustamante C (October 2001). "The bacteriophage straight phi29 portal motor can package DNA against a large internal force". Nature 413 (6857): 748–52.  
  8. ^ Harvey, SC (2015). "The scrunchworm hypothesis: Transitions between A-DNA and B-DNA provide the driving force for genome packaging in double-stranded DNA bacteriophages". Journal of Structural Biology 189: 1–8.  

External links

  • MBInfo - Molecular Motor Activity
  • MBInfo - Cytoskeleton-dependent MBInfo - Intracellular Transport
  • Cymobase - A database for cytoskeletal and motor protein sequence information
  • Jonathan Howard (2001), Mechanics of motor proteins and the cytoskeleton. ISBN 9780878933334
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.