Fragmentation is crucial for the steady-state dynamics of actin filaments.
ABSTRACT: Despite the recognition that actin filaments are important for numerous cellular processes, and decades of investigation, the dynamics of in vitro actin filaments are still not completely understood. Here, we follow the time evolution of the length distribution of labeled actin reporter filaments in an unlabeled F-actin solution via fluorescence microscopy. Whereas treadmilling and diffusive length fluctuations cannot account for the observed dynamics, our results suggest that at low salt conditions, spontaneous fragmentation is crucial.
Project description:Contractile function of striated muscle cells depends crucially on the almost crystalline order of actin and myosin filaments in myofibrils, but the physical mechanisms that lead to myofibril assembly remains ill-defined. Passive diffusive sorting of actin filaments into sarcomeric order is kinetically impossible, suggesting a pivotal role of active processes in sarcomeric pattern formation. Using a one-dimensional computational model of an initially unstriated actin bundle, we show that actin filament treadmilling in the presence of processive plus-end crosslinking provides a simple and robust mechanism for the polarity sorting of actin filaments as well as for the correct localization of myosin filaments. We propose that the coalescence of crosslinked actin clusters could be key for sarcomeric pattern formation. In our simulations, sarcomere spacing is set by filament length prompting tight length control already at early stages of pattern formation. The proposed mechanism could be generic and apply both to premyofibrils and nascent myofibrils in developing muscle cells as well as possibly to striated stress-fibers in non-muscle cells.
Project description:The actin cytoskeleton represents a key regulator of multiple essential cellular functions in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. In eukaryotes, these functions depend on the orchestrated dynamics of actin filament assembly and disassembly. However, the dynamics of the bacterial actin homolog MreB have yet to be examined in vivo. In this study, we observed the motion of single fluorescent MreB-yellow fluorescent protein fusions in living Caulobacter cells in a background of unlabeled MreB. With time-lapse imaging, polymerized MreB [filamentous MreB (fMreB)] and unpolymerized MreB [globular MreB (gMreB)] monomers could be distinguished: gMreB showed fast motion that was characteristic of Brownian diffusion, whereas the labeled molecules in fMreB displayed slow, directed motion. This directional movement of labeled MreB in the growing polymer provides an indication that, like actin, MreB monomers treadmill through MreB filaments by preferential polymerization at one filament end and depolymerization at the other filament end. From these data, we extract several characteristics of single MreB filaments, including that they are, on average, much shorter than the cell length and that the direction of their polarized assembly seems to be independent of the overall cellular polarity. Thus, MreB, like actin, exhibits treadmilling behavior in vivo, and the long MreB structures that have been visualized in multiple bacterial species seem to represent bundles of short filaments that lack a uniform global polarity.
Project description:Actin, one of the most abundant proteins within eukaryotic cells, assembles into long filaments that form intricate cytoskeletal networks and are continuously remodelled via cycles of actin polymerization and depolymerization. These cycles are driven by ATP hydrolysis, a process that also acts to destabilize the filaments as they grow older. Recently, abrupt dynamical changes during the depolymerization of single filaments have been observed and seemed to imply that old filaments are more stable than young ones [Kueh HY, et al. (2008) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:16531-16536]. Using improved experimental setups and quantitative theoretical analysis, we show that these abrupt changes represent actual pauses in depolymerization, unexpectedly caused by the photo-induced formation of actin dimers within the filaments. The stochastic dimerization process is triggered by random transitions of single, fluorescently labeled protomers. Each pause represents the delayed dissociation of a single actin dimer, and the statistics of these single molecule events can be determined by optical microscopy. Unlabeled actin filaments do not exhibit pauses in depolymerization, which implies that, in vivo, older filaments become destabilized by ATP hydrolysis, unless this aging effect is overcompensated by actin-binding proteins. The latter antagonism can now be systematically studied for single filaments using our combined experimental and theoretical method. Furthermore, the dimerization process discovered here provides a molecular switch, by which one can control the length of actin filaments via changes in illumination. This process could also be used to locally "freeze" the dynamics within networks of filaments.
Project description:During bacterial cell division, the tubulin-homolog FtsZ forms a ring-like structure at the center of the cell. This Z-ring not only organizes the division machinery, but treadmilling of FtsZ filaments was also found to play a key role in distributing proteins at the division site. What regulates the architecture, dynamics and stability of the Z-ring is currently unknown, but FtsZ-associated proteins are known to play an important role. Here, using an in vitro reconstitution approach, we studied how the well-conserved protein ZapA affects FtsZ treadmilling and filament organization into large-scale patterns. Using high-resolution fluorescence microscopy and quantitative image analysis, we found that ZapA cooperatively increases the spatial order of the filament network, but binds only transiently to FtsZ filaments and has no effect on filament length and treadmilling velocity. Together, our data provides a model for how FtsZ-associated proteins can increase the precision and stability of the bacterial cell division machinery in a switch-like manner.
Project description:Herpesviruses are large double-stranded DNA viruses that replicate in the nuclei of infected cells. Spatial control of viral replication and assembly in the host nucleus is achieved by the establishment of nuclear compartments that serve to concentrate viral and host factors. How these compartments are established and maintained remains poorly understood. Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is an alpha-herpesvirus often used to study herpesvirus invasion and spread in the nervous system. Here, we report that PRV and herpes simplex virus type 1 infection of neurons results in formation of actin filaments in the nucleus. Filamentous actin is not found in the nucleus of uninfected cells. Nuclear actin filaments appear physically associated with the viral capsids, as shown by serial block-face scanning electron micropscopy and confocal microscopy. Using a green fluorescent protein-tagged viral capsid protein (VP26), we show that nuclear actin filaments form prior to capsid assembly and are required for the efficient formation of viral capsid assembly sites. We find that actin polymerization dynamics (e.g., treadmilling) are not necessary for the formation of these sites. Green fluorescent protein-VP26 foci co-localize with the actin motor myosin V, suggesting that viral capsids travel along nuclear actin filaments using myosin-based directed transport. Viral transcription, but not viral DNA replication, is required for actin filament formation. The finding that infection, by either PRV or herpes simplex virus type 1, results in formation of nuclear actin filaments in neurons, and that PRV infection of an epithelial cell line results in a similar phenotype is evidence that F-actin plays a conserved role in herpesvirus assembly. Our results suggest a mechanism by which assembly domains are organized within infected cells and provide insight into how the viral infectious cycle and host actin cytoskeleton are integrated to promote the infection process.
Project description:The hydrolysis of ATP associated with actin and profilin-actin polymerization is pivotal in cell motility. It is at the origin of treadmilling of actin filaments and controls their dynamics and mechanical properties, as well as their interactions with regulatory proteins. The slow release of inorganic phosphate (Pi) that follows rapid cleavage of ATP gamma phosphate is linked to an increase in the rate of filament disassembly. The mechanism of Pi release in actin filaments has remained elusive for over 20 years. Here, we developed a microfluidic setup to accurately monitor the depolymerization of individual filaments and determine their local ADP-Pi content. We demonstrate that Pi release in the filament is not a vectorial but a random process with a half-time of 102 seconds, irrespective of whether the filament is assembled from actin or profilin-actin. Pi release from the depolymerizing barbed end is faster (half-time of 0.39 seconds) and further accelerated by profilin. Profilin accelerates the depolymerization of both ADP- and ADP-Pi-F-actin. Altogether, our data show that during elongation from profilin-actin, the dissociation of profilin from the growing barbed end is not coupled to Pi release or to ATP cleavage on the terminal subunit. These results emphasize the potential of microfluidics in elucidating actin regulation at the scale of individual filaments.
Project description:Most bacteria accomplish cell division with the help of a dynamic protein complex called the divisome, which spans the cell envelope in the plane of division. Assembly and activation of this machinery are coordinated by the tubulin-related GTPase FtsZ, which was found to form treadmilling filaments on supported bilayers in vitro1, as well as in live cells, in which filaments circle around the cell division site2,3. Treadmilling of FtsZ is thought to actively move proteins around the division septum, thereby distributing peptidoglycan synthesis and coordinating the inward growth of the septum to form the new poles of the daughter cells4. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this function are largely unknown. Here, to study how FtsZ polymerization dynamics are coupled to downstream proteins, we reconstituted part of the bacterial cell division machinery using its purified components FtsZ, FtsA and truncated transmembrane proteins essential for cell division. We found that the membrane-bound cytosolic peptides of FtsN and FtsQ co-migrated with treadmilling FtsZ-FtsA filaments, but despite their directed collective behaviour, individual peptides showed random motion and transient confinement. Our work suggests that divisome proteins follow treadmilling FtsZ filaments by a diffusion-and-capture mechanism, which can give rise to a moving zone of signalling activity at the division site.
Project description:Principles of regulation of actin network dimensions are fundamentally important for cell functions, yet remain unclear. Using both in vitro and in silico approaches, we studied the effect of key parameters, such as actin density, ADF/Cofilin concentration and network width on the network length. In the presence of ADF/Cofilin, networks reached equilibrium and became treadmilling. At the trailing edge, the network disintegrated into large fragments. A mathematical model predicts the network length as a function of width, actin and ADF/Cofilin concentrations. Local depletion of ADF/Cofilin by binding to actin is significant, leading to wider networks growing longer. A single rate of breaking network nodes, proportional to ADF/Cofilin density and inversely proportional to the square of the actin density, can account for the disassembly dynamics. Selective disassembly of heterogeneous networks by ADF/Cofilin controls steering during motility. Our results establish general principles on how the dynamic steady state of actin network emerges from biochemical and structural feedbacks.
Project description:The mechanism by which bacteria divide is not well understood. Cell division is mediated by filaments of FtsZ and FtsA (FtsAZ) that recruit septal peptidoglycan-synthesizing enzymes to the division site. To understand how these components coordinate to divide cells, we visualized their movements relative to the dynamics of cell wall synthesis during cytokinesis. We found that the division septum was built at discrete sites that moved around the division plane. FtsAZ filaments treadmilled circumferentially around the division ring and drove the motions of the peptidoglycan-synthesizing enzymes. The FtsZ treadmilling rate controlled both the rate of peptidoglycan synthesis and cell division. Thus, FtsZ treadmilling guides the progressive insertion of new cell wall by building increasingly smaller concentric rings of peptidoglycan to divide the cell.
Project description:In addition to its long-studied presence in the cytoplasm, actin is also found in the nuclei of eukaryotic cells. The function and form (monomer, filament, or noncanonical oligomer) of nuclear actin are hotly debated, and its localization and dynamics are largely unknown. To determine the distribution of nuclear actin in live somatic cells and evaluate its potential functions, we constructed and validated fluorescent nuclear actin probes. Monomeric actin probes concentrate in nuclear speckles, suggesting an interaction of monomers with RNA-processing factors. Filamentous actin probes recognize discrete structures with submicron lengths that are excluded from chromatin-rich regions. In time-lapse movies, these actin filament structures exhibit one of two types of mobility: 1) diffusive, with an average diffusion coefficient of 0.06-0.08 μm(2)/s, or (2) subdiffusive, with a mobility coefficient of 0.015 μm(2)/s. Individual filament trajectories exhibit features of particles moving within a viscoelastic mesh. The small size of nuclear actin filaments is inconsistent with a role in micron-scale intranuclear transport, and their localization suggests that they do not participate directly in chromatin-based processes. Our results instead suggest that actin filaments form part of a large, viscoelastic structure in the nucleoplasm and may act as scaffolds that help organize nuclear contents.