Encyclopedia of Biophysics

2013 Edition
| Editors: Gordon C. K. Roberts

Dynein Family Classification

  • Aristides G. DiamantEmail author
  • Andrew P. Carter
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-16712-6_765



All known cytoskeletal molecular motors belong to one of three families: the  dyneins,  myosins, and  kinesins. Each motor includes at least one heavy chain (HC), which contains a motor domain that converts the chemical energy of ATP into mechanical work as well as binding sites for various accessory chains. Despite these similarities in overall structure and function, the dyneins are distinct due to the size of their HCs. Dynein HCs (>500 kDa) are much larger than those of kinesin (∼70–170 kDa) and myosin (∼120–250 kDa). This disparity in size reflects the difference in evolutionary origin between dynein and the other two motor families. The highly conserved nucleotide binding pockets of kinesin and myosin are homologous to the active site of G proteins, while dynein’s hydrolytic activity relies on AAA+ domains. All three families are composed of several related, yet distinct members, each adapted to its unique cellular function. The focus of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Barber CF, Heuser T, Carbajal-González BI, Botchkarev Jr VV, Nicastro D. Three-dimensional structure of the radial spokes reveals heterogeneity and interactions with dyneins in Chlamydomonas flagella. Mol Biol Cell. 2011;23(1):111–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bui KH, Pigino G, Ishikawa T. Three-dimensional structural analysis of eukaryotic flagella/cilia by electron cryo-tomography. J Synchrotron Rad. 2010;18:2–5.Google Scholar
  3. Burgess SA, Walker ML, Sakakibara H, Knight PJ, Oiwa K. Dynein structure and power stroke. Nature. 2003;421:715–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Hirose K, Amos LA. Handbook of dynein. Singapore: Pan Stanford; 2012.Google Scholar
  5. Hom EFY, Witman GB, Harris EH, Dutcher SK, Kamiya R, Mitchell DR, Pazour GJ, Porter ME, Sale WS, Wirschell M, et al. A unified taxonomy for ciliary dyneins. Cytoskeleton (Hoboken). 2011;68:555–65.Google Scholar
  6. Kamiya R. Functional diversity of axonemal dyneins as studied in Chlamydomonas mutants. Int Rev Cytol. 2002;219:115–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Kardon JR, Vale RD. Regulators of the cytoplasmic dynein motor. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2009;10:854–65.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Karki S, Holzbaur EL. Cytoplasmic dynein and dynactin in cell division and intracellular transport. Curr Opin Cell Biol. 1999;11:45–53.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. King SM. Dyneins: structure, biology and disease. Amsterdam/Boston: Academic; 2011.Google Scholar
  10. McKenney RJ, Weil SJ, Scherer J, Vallee RB. Mutually exclusive cytoplasmic dynein regulation by NudE-Lis1 and dynactin. J Biol Chem. 2011;286:39615–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Mikami A, Tynan SH, Hama T, Luby-Phelps K, Saito T, Crandall JE, Besharse JC, Vallee RB. Molecular structure of cytoplasmic dynein 2 and its distribution in neuronal and ciliated cells. J Cell Sci. 2002;115:4801–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Movassagh T, Bui KH, Sakakibara H, Oiwa K, Ishikawa T. Nucleotide-induced global conformational changes of flagellar dynein arms revealed by in situ analysis. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2010;17:761–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Nicastro D, Schwartz C, Pierson J, Gaudette R, Porter ME, McIntosh R. The molecular architecture of axonemes revealed by cryoelectron tomography. Science. 2006;313:944–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Rapali P, Szenes Á, Radnai L, Bakos A, Pál G, Nyitray L. DYNLL/LC8: a light chain subunit of the dynein motor complex and beyond. FEBS J. 2011;278:2980–96.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Rompolas P, Pedersen LB, Patel-King RS, King SM. Chlamydomonas FAP133 is a dynein intermediate chain associated with the retrograde intraflagellar transport motor. J Cell Sci. 2007;120:3653–65.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Scholey JM, Anderson KV. Intraflagellar transport and cilium-based signaling. Cell. 2006;125:439–42.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Takazaki H, Liu Z, Jin M, Kamiya R, Yasunaga T. Three outer arm dynein heavy chains of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii operate in a coordinated fashion both in vitro and in vivo. Cytoskeleton (Hoboken). 2010;67:466–76.Google Scholar
  18. Tan SC, Scherer J, Vallee RB. Recruitment of dynein to late endosomes and lysosomes through light intermediate chains. Mol Biol Cell. 2011;22:467–77.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Yagi T, Uematsu K, Liu Z, Kamiya R. Identification of dyneins that localize exclusively to the proximal portion of Chlamydomonas flagella. J Cell Sci. 2009;122:1306–14.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© European Biophysical Societies' Association (EBSA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Structural StudiesMedical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular BiologyCambridgeUK