Minus-end directed, non-processive kinesin-14 Ncd is a dimeric protein with C-terminally located motor domains (heads). Generation of the power-stroke by Ncd consists of a lever-like rotation of a long superhelical ‘stalk’ segment while one of the kinesin's heads is bound to the microtubule. The last ∼30 amino acids of Ncd head play a crucial but still poorly understood role in this process. Here, we used accelerated molecular dynamics simulations to explore the conformational dynamics of several systems built upon two crystal structures of Ncd, the asymmetrical T436S mutant in pre-stroke/post-stroke conformations of two partner subunits and the symmetrical wild-type protein in pre-stroke conformation of both subunits. The results revealed a new conformational state forming following the inward motion of the subunits and stabilized with several hydrogen bonds to residues located on the border or within the C-terminal linker, i.e. a modeled extension of the C-terminus by residues 675–683. Forming of this new, compact Ncd conformation critically depends on the length of the C-terminus extending to at least residue 681. Moreover, the associative motion leading to the compact conformation is accompanied by a partial lateral rotation of the stalk. We propose that the stable compact conformation of Ncd may represent an initial state of the working stroke.

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