Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 11–22

Mechanical Design of Translocating Motor Proteins

Review Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12013-009-9049-4

Cite this article as:
Hwang, W. & Lang, M.J. Cell Biochem Biophys (2009) 54: 11. doi:10.1007/s12013-009-9049-4


Translocating motors generate force and move along a biofilament track to achieve diverse functions including gene transcription, translation, intracellular cargo transport, protein degradation, and muscle contraction. Advances in single molecule manipulation experiments, structural biology, and computational analysis are making it possible to consider common mechanical design principles of these diverse families of motors. Here, we propose a mechanical parts list that include track, energy conversion machinery, and moving parts. Energy is supplied not just by burning of a fuel molecule, but there are other sources or sinks of free energy, by binding and release of a fuel or products, or similarly between the motor and the track. Dynamic conformational changes of the motor domain can be regarded as controlling the flow of free energy to and from the surrounding heat reservoir. Multiple motor domains are organized in distinct ways to achieve motility under imposed physical constraints. Transcending amino acid sequence and structure, physically and functionally similar mechanical parts may have evolved as nature’s design strategy for these molecular engines.


KinesinMyosinDNA motorChaperoneRibosomeMechanochemical cycleFish model

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Engineering and Department of Mechanical Engineering Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA