Ronald D. Vale

University of California, San Francisco


Election Year: 2001
Primary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

I have been fascinated by the molecular machinery that generates the intracellular movements of organelles, chromosomes, mRNAs, and protein complexes. As a graduate student I was involved in discovering a new motor protein called kinesin that moves along microtubules. Kinesins are now known to constitute a large protein superfamily whose members carry out diverse motile activities important for cell division, development, and membrane functions. One interest of my laboratory has been to understand the mechanism by which kinesins convert the energy from ATP hydrolysis into unidirectional motion. To tackle this question, we initially developed microscopy-based assays for studying kinesin-generated motility in vitro and extended these methods to study movement produced by individual kinesin molecules. Using such assays with structural and spectroscopic approaches and protein engineering, we have developed a detailed model for explaining how ATP-induced structural changes in the motor leads to directional motion. The biological functions of motors and microtubules also have been topics of continued interest to my laboratory. We have studied how mRNAs and membranes interact with particular motor proteins and how regulatory proteins modulate the dynamic behavior of the microtubule cytoskeleton.

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