Identification of an axonal kinesin-3 motor for fast anterograde vesicle transport that facilitates retrograde transport of neuropeptides.
A screen for genes required in Drosophila eye development identified an UNC-104/Kif1 related kinesin-3 microtubule motor. Analysis of mutants suggested that Drosophila Unc-104 has neuronal functions that are distinct from those of the classic anterograde axonal motor, kinesin-1. In particular, unc-104 mutations did not cause the distal paralysis and focal axonal swellings characteristic of kinesin-1 (Khc) mutations. However, like Khc mutations, unc-104 mutations caused motoneuron terminal atrophy. The distributions and transport behaviors of green fluorescent protein-tagged organelles in motor axons indicate that Unc-104 is a major contributor to the anterograde fast transport of neuropeptide-filled vesicles, that it also contributes to anterograde transport of synaptotagmin-bearing vesicles, and that it contributes little or nothing to anterograde transport of mitochondria, which are transported primarily by Khc. Remarkably, unc-104 mutations inhibited retrograde runs by neurosecretory vesicles but not by the other two organelles. This suggests that Unc-104, a member of an anterograde kinesin subfamily, contributes to an organelle-specific dynein-driven retrograde transport mechanism.