KIF1A is a critical cargo transport motor within neurons. More than 100 known mutations result in KIF1A-associated neurological disorder (KAND), a degenerative condition for which there is no cure. A missense mutation, P305L, was identified in children diagnosed with KAND, but the molecular basis for the disease is unknown. We find that this conserved residue is part of an unusual 310 helix immediately adjacent to the family-specific K-loop, which facilitates a high microtubule-association rate. We find that the mutation negatively affects several biophysical parameters of the motor. However, the microtubule-association rate of the motor is most markedly affected, revealing that the presence of an intact K-loop is not sufficient for its function. We hypothesize that the 310 helix facilitates a specific K-loop conformation that is critical for its function. We find that the function of this proline is conserved in kinesin-1, revealing a fundamental principle of the kinesin motor mechanism.
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