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The mechanisms of cytoskeletal motor proteins

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Ronald D. Vale, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
HHMI-University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Vale is active in many educational activities. He founded and is the Executive Director of iBiology.Org, which produces talks by leading biologists and makes them freely available on the web. Vale co-directed the 7 week Physiology Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory, transforming it to a venue of interdisciplinary research in physics and biology (2004-2008). His laboratory developed MicroManager, a widely used open source and freely available software package for microscopy. He also developed an educational web site on microscopy for elementary school children ( Vale is activate in helping young scientists in India by starting the very popular Young Investigator Meetings as well as an interactive web site ( for India biologists to obtain information on science/jobs/grants/collaborations. He served on HHMI’s Education Advisory Committee and on the Advisory Committee for the Indian Institute of Science and Education in Pune.


Movement is a fundamental property of living organisms. The contraction of muscles, beating of cilia and flagella, segregation of genetic material during mitosis, and intracellular transport of membranes, proteins and mRNAs are driven by molecular motor proteins that move along cytoskeletal filaments. Dr. Vale’s laboratory, whose research is funded by NIH, has studied kinesin and dynein, the two types of motors that move along microtubule tracks. The mechanism of kinesin is reasonably well understood through measurements of its single molecule motility and the elucidation of its atomic structure. Dynein, a much larger motor that is evolutionarily unrelated to kinesin, is not as well understood. In his lecture, Dr. Vale will describe his lab’s recent efforts to understand how structural changes in the dynein motor produce motility and how that motility might be regulated. He will also briefly discuss his Web-based science and education outreach project——which is funded jointly by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

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