Kinesin-1 and cytoplasmic dynein are microtubule (MT) motors that transport intracellular cargos. It remains unclear how these motors move along MTs densely coated with obstacles of various sizes in the cytoplasm. Here, we tested the ability of single and multiple motors to bypass synthetic obstacles on MTs in vitro. Contrary to previous reports, we found that mammalian dynein is highly capable of bypassing obstacles. Unlike dynein, single kinesin motors stall in the presence of obstacles, consistent with their inability to take sideways steps to neighboring protofilaments. Kinesins overcome this limitation when working in teams, bypassing obstacles as effectively as multiple dyneins. Cargos driven by multiple kinesin or dyneins are also capable of rotating around the MT to bypass large obstacles. These results suggest that multiplicity of motors is required not only for transporting cargos over long distances and generating higher forces, but also for maneuvering of the cargos on obstacle-coated MT surfaces.
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