In contrast to the slow rate of depolymerization of pure actin in vitro, populations of actin filaments in vivo turn over rapidly. Therefore, the rate of actin depolymerization must be accelerated by one or more factors in the cell. Since the actin dynamics in Listeria monocytogenes tails bear many similarities to those in the lamellipodia of moving cells, we have used Listeria as a model system to isolate factors required for regulating the rapid actin filament turnover involved in cell migration. Using a cell-free Xenopus egg extract system to reproduce the Listeria movement seen in a cell, we depleted candidate depolymerizing proteins and analyzed the effect that their removal had on the morphology of Listeria tails. Immunodepletion of Xenopus actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin (XAC) from Xenopus egg extracts resulted in Listeria tails that were approximately five times longer than the tails from undepleted extracts. Depletion of XAC did not affect the tail assembly rate, suggesting that the increased tail length was caused by an inhibition of actin filament depolymerization. Immunodepletion of Xenopus gelsolin had no effect on either tail length or assembly rate. Addition of recombinant wild-type XAC or chick ADF protein to XAC-depleted extracts restored the tail length to that of control extracts, while addition of mutant ADF S3E that mimics the phosphorylated, inactive form of ADF did not reduce the tail length. Addition of excess wild-type XAC to Xenopus egg extracts reduced the length of Listeria tails to a limited extent. These observations show that XAC but not gelsolin is essential for depolymerizing actin filaments that rapidly turn over in Xenopus extracts. We also show that while the depolymerizing activities of XAC and Xenopus extract are effective at depolymerizing normal filaments containing ADP, they are unable to completely depolymerize actin filaments containing AMPPNP, a slowly hydrolyzible ATP analog. This observation suggests that the substrate for XAC is the ADP-bound subunit of actin and that the lifetime of a filament is controlled by its nucleotide content.
We isolated a cDNA clone encoding a kinesin-related protein, which we named XKCM1. Antibodies to XKCM1 stain mitotic centromeres and spindle poles. Immunodepletion and antibody addition experiments in an in vitro spindle assembly assay show that XKCM1 is required for both establishment and maintenance of mitotic spindles. The structures that form in the absence of XKCM1 contain abnormally long microtubules. This long microtubule defect can be rescued by the addition of purified XKCM1 protein. Analysis of microtubule dynamics in a clarified mitotic extract reveals that loss of XKCM1 function causes a 4-fold suppression in the catastrophe frequency. XKCM1 thus exhibits a novel activity for a kinesin-related protein by promoting microtubule depolymerization during mitotic spindle assembly.
Using a polymerization inhibition assay, we have purified a small, heat stable protein that physically interacts with tubulin dimers and increases the catastrophe rate of microtubules. Sequence analysis identified this protein as oncoprotein 18 (Op18)/stathmin, a conserved phosphoprotein that is highly expressed in leukemia cells. Immunodepletion experiments in Xenopus egg extracts showed that Op18/stathmin is involved in physiological regulation of mitotic microtubule dynamics. Op18/stathmin is a microtubule regulator that preferentially interacts with unpolymerized subunits. It is a candidate for increasing the microtubule catastrophe rate in mitosis and might also regulate microtubule dynamics in response to external signals.
During metaphase and anaphase in newt lung cells, tubulin subunits within the kinetochore microtubule (kMT) lattice flux slowly poleward as kMTs depolymerize at their minus-ends within in the pole. Very little is known about how and where the force that moves the tubulin subunits poleward is generated and what function it serves during mitosis. We found that treatment with the drug taxol (10 microM) caused separated centrosomes in metaphase newt lung cells to move toward one another with an average velocity of 0.89 microns/min, until the interpolar distance was reduced by 22-62%. This taxol-induced spindle shortening occurred as kMTs between the chromosomes and the poles shortened. Photoactivation of fluorescent marks on kMTs revealed that taxol inhibited kinetochore microtubule assembly/disassembly at kinetochores, whereas minus-end MT disassembly continued at a rate typical of poleward flux in untreated metaphase cells. This poleward flux was strong enough to stretch the centromeric chromatin between sister kinetochores as much as it is stretched in control metaphase cells. In anaphase, taxol blocked kMT disassembly/assembly at the kinetochore whereas minus-end disassembly continued at a rate similar to flux in control cells (approximately 0.2 microns/min). These results reveal that the mechanism for kMT poleward flux 1) is not dependent on kMT plus-end dynamics and 2) produces pulling forces capable of generating tension across the centromeres of bioriented chromosomes.
Septin proteins are necessary for cytokinesis in budding yeast and Drosophila and are thought to be the subunits of the yeast neck filaments. To test whether septins actually form filaments, an immunoaffinity approach was used to isolate a septin complex from Drosophila embryos. The purified complex is comprised of the three previously identified septin polypeptides Pnut, Sep2, and Sep1. Hydrodynamic and sequence data suggest that the complex is composed of a heterotrimer of homodimers. The complex copurifies with one molecule of bound guanine nucleotide per septin polypeptide. It binds and hydrolyzes exogenously added GTP. These observations together with conserved sequence motifs identify the septins as members of the GTPase superfamily. We discuss a model of filament structure and speculate as to how the filaments are organized within cells.
Non-muscle cells contain 15-500 microM actin, a large fraction of which is unpolymerized. Thus, the concentration of unpolymerized actin is well above the critical concentration for polymerization in vitro (0.2 microM). This fraction of actin could be prevented from polymerization by being ADP bound (therefore less favored to polymerize) or by being ATP bound and sequestered by a protein such as thymosin beta 4, or both. We isolated the unpolymerized actin from Xenopus egg extracts using immobilized DNase 1 and assayed the bound nucleotide. High-pressure liquid chromatography analysis showed that the bulk of soluble actin is ATP bound. Analysis of actin-bound nucleotide exchange rates suggested the existence of two pools of unpolymerized actin, one of which exchanges nucleotide relatively rapidly and another that apparently does not exchange. Native gel electrophoresis of Xenopus egg extracts demonstrated that most of the soluble actin exists in complexes with other proteins, one of which might be thymosin beta 4. These results are consistent with actin polymerization being controlled by the sequestration and release of ATP-bound actin, and argue against nucleotide exchange playing a major role in regulating actin polymerization.
Actin filaments and microtubules form the cytoskeleton of all eukaryotic cells, and they are responsible for organizing the cytoplasm and supporting motile processes. Both polymers are highly dynamic, and their polymerization dynamics are central to their organization. Though their evolutionary origins appear to be distinct, actin and tubulin have a similar mechanism for promoting polymerization dynamics in which the energy of nucleotide triphosphate hydrolysis during polymerization is used to weaken the bonds between subunits, thus promoting subsequent depolymerization. The evolutionary origins of actin and tubulin are unclear. It is likely that motile mechanisms driven by reversible polymerization, termed thermal ratchets, are older than those based on ATPase motor proteins. Such mechanisms are still important in modern eukaryotes, and may have powered early versions of the critical motile processes of phagocytosis and chromosome segregation in primitive cells. Thus evolution of dynamic cytoskeletal polymers may have been one of the earliest and most important steps leading to the evolution of eukaryotes. Plausible evolutionary pathways can be constructed leading from simple enzymes to dynamic cytoskeletal polymers.
Using antipeptide antibodies to conserved regions of the kinesin motor domain, we cloned a kinesin-related protein that associates with the centromere region of mitotic chromosomes. We call the protein MCAK, for mitotic centromere-associated kinesin. MCAK appears concentrated on centromeres at prophase and persists until telophase, after which time the localization disperses. It is found throughout the centromere region and between the kinetochore plates of isolated mitotic CHO chromosomes, in contrast to two other kinetochore-associated microtubule motors: cytoplasmic dynein and CENP-E (Yen et al., 1992), which are closer to the outer surface of the kinetochore plates. Sequence analysis shows MCAK to be a kinesin-related protein with the motor domain located in the center of the protein. It is 60-70% similar to kif2, a kinesin-related protein originally cloned from mouse brain with a centrally located motor domain (Aizawa et al., 1992). MCAK protein is present in interphase and mitotic CHO cells and is transcribed as a single 3.4-kb message.
Eg5, a member of the bimC subfamily of kinesin-like microtubule motor proteins, localizes to spindle microtubules in mitosis but not to interphase microtubules. We investigated the molecular basis for spindle localization by transient transfection of Xenopus A6 cells with myc-tagged derivatives of Eg5. Expressed at constitutively high levels from a cytomegalovirus promoter, mycEg5 protein is cytoplasmic throughout interphase, begins to bind microtubules in early prophase, and remains localized to spindle and/or midbody microtubules through mitosis to the end of telophase. Both N- and C-terminal regions of Eg5 are required for this cell-cycle-regulated targeting. Eg5 also contains within its C-terminal domain a sequence conserved among bimC subfamily proteins that includes a potential p34cdc2 phosphorylation site. We show that mutation of a single threonine (T937) within this site to nonphosphorylatable alanine abolishes localization of the mutant protein to the spindle, whereas mutation of T937 to serine preserves spindle localization. We hypothesize that phosphorylation of Eg5 may regulate its localization to the spindle in the cell cycle.
We have investigated a role for myosin in postmitotic Potoroo tridactylis kidney (PtK2) cell spreading by inhibitor studies, time-lapse video microscopy, and immunofluorescence. We have also determined the spatial organization and polarity of actin filaments in postmitotic spreading cells. We show that butanedione monoxime (BDM), a known inhibitor of muscle myosin II, inhibits nonmuscle myosin II and myosin V adenosine triphosphatases. BDM reversibly inhibits PtK2 postmitotic cell spreading. Listeria motility is not affected by this drug. Electron microscopy studies show that some actin filaments in spreading edges are part of actin bundles that are also found in long, thin, structures that are connected to spreading edges and substrate (retraction fibers), and that 90% of this actin is oriented with barbed ends in the direction of spreading. The remaining actin in spreading edges has a more random orientation and spatial arrangement. Myosin II is associated with actin polymer in spreading cell edges, but not retraction fibers. Myosin II is excluded from lamellipodia that protrude from the cell edge at the end of spreading. We suggest that spreading involves myosin, possibly myosin II.
Recent genetic analyses in yeasts and biochemical studies in vertebrate cells have led to the discovery of a family of putative ATPases that play a fundamental role in chromosome condensation and segregation in mitosis. One of the members was also found to be involved in dosage compensation in Caenorhabditis elegans, providing a new link between global regulation of gene expression and chromosome structure. This unique family of proteins may control higher-order chromosome dynamics by regulated self-assembly or mechanochemical activity.
Force arising from actin polymerization and myosin activity drives a number of different actin-based cell movements. Several new reports support previous data suggesting that actin polymerization drives lamellipodial protrusion and bacterial propulsion, and one report describes a more indirect role for actin assembly in axonal elongation. The major new findings of the past year concerning possible motility roles for myosin describe myosin-driven protrusion of cell margins.
Within hours of Listeria monocytogenes infection, host cell actin filaments form a dense cloud around the intracytoplasmic bacteria and then rearrange to form a polarized comet tail that is associated with moving bacteria. We have devised a cell-free extract system capable of faithfully reconstituting L. monocytogenes motility, and we have used this system to demonstrate that profilin, a host actin monomer-binding protein, is necessary for bacterial actin-based motility. We find that extracts from which profilin has been depleted do not support comet tail formation or bacterial motility. In extracts and host cells, profilin is localized to the back half of the surface of motile L. monocytogenes, the site of actin filament assembly in the tail. This association is not observed with L. monocytogenes mutants that do not express the ActA protein, a bacterial gene product necessary for motility and virulence. Profilin also fails to bind L. monocytogenes grown outside of host cytoplasm, suggesting that at least one other host cell factor is required for this association.
We investigated the mechanism of poleward microtubule flux in the mitotic spindle by generating spindle subassemblies in Xenopus egg extracts in vitro and assaying their ability to flux by photoactivation of fluorescence and low-light multichannel fluorescence video-microscopy. We find that monopolar intermediates of in vitro spindle assembly (half-spindles) exhibit normal poleward flux, as do astral microtubule arrays induced by the addition of dimethyl sulfoxide to egg extracts in the absence of both chromosomes and conventional centrosomes. Immunodepletion of the kinesin-related microtubule motor protein Eg5, a candidate flux motor, suggests that Eg5 is not required for flux. These results suggest that poleward flux is a basic element of microtubule behavior exhibited by even simple self-organized microtubule arrays and presumably underlies the most elementary levels of spindle morphogenesis.
Kinetochores oscillate to and fro on the mitotic spindle. The oscillations seem to be biased by the forces acting on the kinetochore, explaining the variety of chromosome movements seen at different stages of mitosis.
In the past, pharmacological approaches have been instrumental in identifying proteins involved in biological processes. Combinatorial chemistry has the potential to make this type of approach even more powerful.