Biological nanomotors with a revolution, linear, or rotation motion mechanism

Peixuan Guo, Hiroyuki Noji, Christopher M. Yengo, Zhengyi Zhao, Ian Graingei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The ubiquitous biological nanomotors were classified into two categories in the past: linear and rotation motors. In 2013, a third type of biomotor, revolution without rotation (, was discovered and found to be widespread among bacteria, eukaryotic viruses, and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) bacteriophages. This review focuses on recent findings about various aspects of motors, including chirality, stoichiometry, channel size, entropy, conformational change, and energy usage rate, in a variety of well-studied motors, including FoF1 ATPase, helicases, viral ds DNA-packaging motors, bacterial chromosome translocases, myosin, kinesin, and dynein. In particular, dsDNA translocases are used to illustrate how these features relate to the motion mechanism and how nature elegantly evolved a revolution mechanism to avoid coiling and tangling during lengthy dsDNA genome transportation in cell division. Motor chirality and channel size are two factors that distinguish rotation motors from revolution motors. Rotation motors use right-handed channels to drive the right-handed dsDNA, similar to the way a nut drives the bolt with threads in same orientation; revolution motors use left-handed motor channels to revolve the right-handed dsDNA. Rotation motors use small channels (<2 nm in diameter) for the close contact of the channel wall with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) or the 2-nm dsDNA bolt; revolution motors use larger channels (>3 nm) with room for the bolt to revolve. Binding and hydrolysis of ATP are linked to different conformational entropy changes in the motor that lead to altered affinity for the substrate and allow work to be done, for example, helicase unwinding of DNA or translocase directional movement of DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-186
Number of pages26
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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