Human kinesin-5 KIF11 drives the helical motion of anti-parallel and parallel microtubules around each other

Laura Meißner, Lukas Niese, Irene Schüring, Aniruddha Mitra, Stefan Diez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During mitosis, motor proteins and microtubule-associated protein organize the spindle apparatus by cross-linking and sliding microtubules. Kinesin-5 plays a vital role in spindle formation and maintenance, potentially inducing twist in the spindle fibers. The off-axis power stroke of kinesin-5 could generate this twist, but its implications in microtubule organization remain unclear. Here, we investigate 3D microtubule-microtubule sliding mediated by the human kinesin-5, KIF11, and found that the motor caused right-handed helical motion of anti-parallel microtubules around each other. The sidestepping ratio increased with reduced ATP concentration, indicating that forward and sideways stepping of the motor are not strictly coupled. Further, the microtubule-microtubule distance (motor extension) during sliding decreased with increasing sliding velocity. Intriguingly, parallel microtubules cross-linked by KIF11 orbited without forward motion, with nearly full motor extension. Altering the length of the neck linker increased the forward velocity and pitch of microtubules in anti-parallel overlaps. Taken together, we suggest that helical motion and orbiting of microtubules, driven by KIF11, contributes to flexible and context-dependent filament organization, as well as torque regulation within the mitotic spindle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1244-1256
Number of pages13
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2024


  • Helical Motion
  • Kinesin
  • Spindle
  • Torque


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