The neuron-specific kinesin, KIF1A, is involved in the transport of cargos critical for neuronal function such as synaptic vesicle precursors and dense-core vesicles. Notably, mutations in KIF1A are implicated in the pathogenesis of neurological disorders such as hereditary spastic paraplegia. Therapies that specifically target KIF1A do not currently exist. I developed a high-throughput, phenotypic screen for small molecule modulators of KIF1A. I used two-color fluorescent imaging to identify a cell-based, phenotypic assay that allows for characterization of the inactive, autoinhibited form of KIF1A and the active form of KIF1A. When expressed in COS-7 and SK-N-SH cells, wild-type KIF1A-GFP is diffusely distributed and does not co-localize with the microtubule marker EB3-mKate2. The hyperactive mutant V8M KIF1A-GFP does co-localize with microtubules and distributes peripherally. These findings support the feasibility of a functional assay to distinguish between the active and inactive forms of KIF1A in a high-throughput screening format.
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Thesis advisor: Silverman, Michael
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