• hippocampal neuron;
  • kinesin;
  • polarity

Polarized kinesin-driven transport is crucial for development and maintenance of neuronal polarity. Kinesins are thought to recognize biochemical differences between axonal and dendritic microtubules in order to deliver their cargoes to the appropriate domain. To identify kinesins that mediate polarized transport, we prepared constitutively active versions of all the kinesins implicated in vesicle transport and expressed them in cultured hippocampal neurons. Seven kinesins translocated preferentially to axons and five translocated into both axons and dendrites. None translocated selectively to dendrites. Highly homologous members of the same subfamily displayed distinctly different translocation preferences and were differentially regulated during development. By expressing chimeric kinesins, we identified two microtubule-binding elements within the motor domain that are important for selective translocation. We also discovered elements in the dimerization domain of kinesin-2 motors that contribute to their selective translocation. These observations indicate that selective interactions between kinesin motor domains and microtubules can account for polarized transport to the axon, but not for selective dendritic transport.