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

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-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
JournalThe EMBO journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC10987665
Scopus 85186201239
ORCID /0000-0002-0750-8515/work/158764599



  • Humans, Kinesins/metabolism, Microtubules/metabolism, Spindle Apparatus/physiology, Microtubule-Associated Proteins/metabolism, Mitosis