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Microscopes and Moving Molecules: The Discovery of Kinesin at the Marine Biological Laboratory

Microscopes and Moving Molecules: The Discovery of Kinesin at the Marine Biological Laboratory

Chapter:
(p.211) Nine Microscopes and Moving Molecules: The Discovery of Kinesin at the Marine Biological Laboratory
Source:
Why Study Biology by the Sea?
Author(s):
Karl S. Matlin
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226673097.003.0010

In the late 1970s Nina Strömgren Allen and Robert Day Allen, working at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, discovered a type of video microscopy that enabled them to visually detect objects in living cells that were below the resolution limit of conventional microscopes. In 1981, collaborating with Scott Brady and Ray Lasek, Robert Allen used his microscopic technique, AVEC-DIC, to look at vesicles moving on filaments in intact axons and extruded axoplasm from the squid giant axon. In 1983, newly-arrived investigators at the MBL, Ron Vale and Mike Scheetz, joined the project, but were soon competing with Allen and Brady in the search for the molecular motor driving transport. In the end, Vale and Scheetz succeeded with the help of Bruce Schnapp and Tom Reese, other MBL scientists, and a key discovery by Brady that facilitated isolation of the motor. Vale named the motor kinesin and demonstrated how it unidirectionally moved vesicles along microtubules. In this story, microscopic observations of a biological process, the transport of vesicles along microtubules, were essential to the discovery and isolation of kinesin, and also insured that the discovery was biologically meaningful by linking biochemical and molecular events directly to biological functions.

Keywords:   molecular motors, Marine Biological Laboratory, MBL, squid, vesicle transport, video microscopy, Robert Day Allen, Ron Vale, Scott Brady, kinesin

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