"Investigating Molecular Motors Step by Step" -- that's the title of a fascinating article in The Scientist. Sounds like they might be building machines for molecular manufacturing, right? Well, not exactly, but close. The subtitle says, "Recent discoveries begin to answer how dyneins, kinesins, and myosins actually work." Ah, so what these gearheads are actually studying is how protein motors work...and the similarities are intriguing.
The article contains a description of how mechanical (and yet how complex) protein motors are. One of them even appears to include an automatic transmission that adjusts its force and step size to its load. The point is, we're rapidly learning more about the bio-nanoscale, and it's looking very mechanical.
Here's a quote from Stanford's Steven Block: "When we can finally tell the story, from the point where an ATP binds the molecule, to what part of the molecule changes, and how that communicates to other parts of the molecule, and how that leads to force and displacement ... then we can say we really understand the molecular mechanism of motor proteins." He continues, "Until we can do that, we ought not to congratulate ourselves too heavily."