Acute Inhibition of Heterotrimeric Kinesin-2 Function Reveals Mechanisms of Intraflagellar Transport in Mammalian Cilia

Martin F Engelke, Bridget Waas, Sarah E Kearns, Ayana Suber, Allison Boss, Benjamin L Allen, Kristen J Verhey
Current Biology: CB 2019 March 13
The trafficking of components within cilia, called intraflagellar transport (IFT), is powered by kinesin-2 and dynein-2 motors. Loss of function in any subunit of the heterotrimeric KIF3A/KIF3B/KAP kinesin-2 motor prevents ciliogenesis in mammalian cells and has hindered an understanding of how kinesin-2 motors function in cilium assembly and IFT. We used a chemical-genetic approach to generate an inhibitable KIF3A/KIF3B/KAP kinesin-2 motor (i3A/i3B) that is capable of rescuing wild-type (WT) motor function for cilium assembly and Hedgehog signaling in Kif3a/Kif3b double-knockout cells. We demonstrate that KIF3A/KIF3B function is required not just for cilium assembly but also for cilium maintenance, as inhibition of i3A/i3B blocks IFT within 2 min and leads to a complete loss of primary cilia within 8 h. In contrast, inhibition of dynein-2 has no effect on cilium maintenance within the same time frame. The kinetics of cilia loss indicate that two processes contribute to ciliary disassembly in response to cessation of anterograde IFT: a slow shortening that is steady over time and a rapid deciliation that occurs with stochastic onset. We also demonstrate that the kinesin-2 family members KIF3A/KIF3C and KIF17 cannot rescue ciliogenesis in Kif3a/Kif3b double-knockout cells or delay the loss of assembled cilia upon i3A/i3B inhibition. These results demonstrate that KIF3A/KIF3B/KAP is the sole and essential motor for cilium assembly and maintenance in mammalian cells. These findings highlight differences in how kinesin-2 motors were adapted for cilium assembly and IFT function across species.

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