Structural basis for microtubule binding and release by dynein.
Cytoplasmic dynein is a microtubule-based motor required for intracellular transport and cell division. Its movement involves coupling cycles of track binding and release with cycles of force-generating nucleotide hydrolysis. How this is accomplished given the ~25 nanometers separating dynein's track- and nucleotide-binding sites is not understood. Here, we present a subnanometer-resolution structure of dynein's microtubule-binding domain bound to microtubules by cryo-electron microscopy that was used to generate a pseudo-atomic model of the complex with molecular dynamics. We identified large rearrangements triggered by track binding and specific interactions, confirmed by mutagenesis and single-molecule motility assays, which tune dynein's affinity for microtubules. Our results provide a molecular model for how dynein's binding to microtubules is communicated to the rest of the motor.