Microtubule polymerization dynamics at kinetochores is coupled to chromosome movements, but its regulation there is poorly understood. The plus end tracking protein EB1 is required both for regulating microtubule dynamics and for maintaining a euploid genome. To address the role of EB1 in aneuploidy, we visualized its targeting in mitotic PtK1 cells. Fluorescent EB1, which localized to polymerizing ends of astral and spindle microtubules, was used to track their polymerization. EB1 also associated with a subset of attached kinetochores in late prometaphase and metaphase, and rarely in anaphase. Localization occurred in a narrow crescent, concave toward the centromere, consistent with targeting to the microtubule plus end-kinetochore interface. EB1 did not localize to kinetochores lacking attached kinetochore microtubules in prophase or early prometaphase, or upon nocodazole treatment. By time lapse, EB1 specifically targeted to kinetochores moving antipoleward, coupled to microtubule plus end polymerization, and not during plus end depolymerization. It localized independently of spindle bipolarity, the spindle checkpoint, and dynein/dynactin function. EB1 is the first protein whose targeting reflects kinetochore directionality, unlike other plus end tracking proteins that show enhanced kinetochore binding in the absence of microtubules. Our results suggest EB1 may modulate kinetochore microtubule polymerization and/or attachment.
Septins are polymerizing GTPases required for cytokinesis and cortical organization. The principles by which they are targeted to, and assemble at, specific cell regions are unknown. We show that septins in mammalian cells switch between a linear organization along actin bundles and cytoplasmic rings, approximately 0.6 microm in diameter. A recombinant septin complex self-assembles into rings resembling those in cells. Linear organization along actin bundles was reconstituted by adding an adaptor protein, anillin. Perturbation of septin organization in cells by expression of a septin-interacting fragment of anillin or by septin depletion via siRNA causes loss of actin bundles. We conclude that septins alone self-assemble into rings, that adaptor proteins recruit septins to actin bundles, and that septins help organize these bundles.
Chemical inhibitors, whether natural products or synthetic, have had an enormous impact on the study of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. Here we review the history of some of the most widely used cytoskeletal poisons and their influence on our understanding of cytoskeletal functions. We then highlight several new inhibitors and the targeted screens used to identify them and discuss why this approach has been successful.
Mitosis has been studied since the early 1880s, to the extent that we now have a detailed, but still incomplete, description of spindle dynamics and mechanics, a sense of potential mechanochemical and regulatory mechanisms at a molecular level, and a long list of mitotic proteins. Here we present a personal view of how far we have come, and where we need to go to fully understand the mechanisms involved in mitosis.
Cell morphology and motility are governed largely by complex signaling networks that ultimately engage the actin cytoskeleton. Understanding how individual circuits contribute to the process of forming cellular structures would be aided greatly by the availability of specific chemical inhibitors. We have used a novel chemical screen in Xenopus cell-free extracts to identify compounds that inhibit signaling pathways regulating actin polymerization. Here we report the results of a high-throughput screen for compounds that inhibit phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP(2))-induced actin assembly and the identification of the first compound, a cyclic peptide, known to block actin assembly by inhibiting an upstream signaling component. We identify the target of this compound as N-WASP, a protein that has been investigated for its role as a node interconnecting various actin signaling networks. We show that this compound prevents activation of the Arp2/3 complex by N-WASP by allosterically stabilizing the autoinhibited conformation of N-WASP.
We used fluorescent speckle microscopy to probe the dynamics of the mitotic kinesin Eg5 in Xenopus extract spindles, and compared them to microtubule dynamics. We found significant populations of Eg5 that were static over several seconds while microtubules flux towards spindle poles. Eg5 dynamics are frozen by adenylimidodiphosphate. Bulk turnover experiments showed that Eg5 can exchange between the spindle and the extract with a half life of <55 s. Eg5 distribution in spindles was not perturbed by inhibition of its motor activity with monastrol, but was perturbed by inhibition of dynactin with p50 dynamitin. We interpret these data as revealing the existence of a static spindle matrix that promotes Eg5 targeting to spindles, and transient immobilization of Eg5 within spindles. We discuss alternative interpretations of the Eg5 dynamics we observe, ideas for the biochemical nature of a spindle matrix, and implications for Eg5 function.
We examined the spatial and temporal control of actin assembly in living Xenopus eggs. Within minutes of egg activation, dynamic actin-rich comet tails appeared on a subset of cytoplasmic vesicles that were enriched in protein kinase C (PKC), causing the vesicles to move through the cytoplasm. Actin comet tail formation in vivo was stimulated by the PKC activator phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), and this process could be reconstituted in a cell-free system. We used this system to define the characteristics that distinguish vesicles associated with actin comet tails from other vesicles in the extract. We found that the protein, N-WASP, was recruited to the surface of every vesicle associated with an actin comet tail, suggesting that vesicle movement results from actin assembly nucleated by the Arp2/3 complex, the immediate downstream target of N-WASP. The motile vesicles accumulated the dye acridine orange, a marker for endosomes and lysosomes. Furthermore, vesicles associated with actin comet tails had the morphological features of multivesicular endosomes as revealed by electron microscopy. Endosomes and lysosomes from mammalian cells preferentially nucleated actin assembly and moved in the Xenopus egg extract system. These results define endosomes and lysosomes as recruitment sites for the actin nucleation machinery and demonstrate that actin assembly contributes to organelle movement. Conversely, by nucleating actin assembly, intracellular membranes may contribute to the dynamic organization of the actin cytoskeleton.
BACKGROUND: Understanding the molecular mechanisms of complex cellular processes requires unbiased means to identify and to alter conditionally gene products that function in a pathway of interest. Although random mutagenesis and screening (forward genetics) provide a useful means to this end, the complexity of the genome, long generation time and redundancy of gene function have limited their use with mammalian systems. We sought to develop an analogous process using small molecules to modulate conditionally the function of proteins. We hoped to identify simultaneously small molecules that may serve as leads for the development of therapeutically useful agents.
RESULTS: We report the results of a high-throughput, phenotype-based screen for identifying cell-permeable small molecules that affect mitosis of mammalian cells. The predominant class of compounds that emerged directly alters the stability of microtubules in the mitotic spindle. Although many of these compounds show the colchicine-like property of destabilizing microtubules, one member shows the taxol-like property of stabilizing microtubules. Another class of compounds alters chromosome segregation by novel mechanisms that do not involve direct interactions with microtubules.
CONCLUSIONS: The identification of structurally diverse small molecules that affect the mammalian mitotic machinery from a large library of synthetic compounds illustrates the use of chemical genetics in dissecting an essential cellular pathway. This screen identified five compounds that affect mitosis without directly targeting microtubules. Understanding the mechanism of action of these compounds, along with future screening efforts, promises to help elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in chromosome segregation during mitosis.
We have characterized a human homologue of anillin, a Drosophila actin binding protein. Like Drosophila anillin, the human protein localizes to the nucleus during interphase, the cortex following nuclear envelope breakdown, and the cleavage furrow during cytokinesis. Anillin also localizes to ectopic cleavage furrows generated between two spindles in fused PtK(1) cells. Microinjection of antianillin antibodies slows cleavage, leading to furrow regression and the generation of multinucleate cells. GFP fusions that contain the COOH-terminal 197 amino acids of anillin, which includes a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain, form ectopic cortical foci during interphase. The septin Hcdc10 localizes to these ectopic foci, whereas myosin II and actin do not, suggesting that anillin interacts with the septins at the cortex. Robust cleavage furrow localization requires both this COOH-terminal domain and additional NH(2)-terminal sequences corresponding to an actin binding domain defined by in vitro cosedimentation assays. Endogenous anillin and Hcdc10 colocalize to punctate foci associated with actin cables throughout mitosis and the accumulation of both proteins at the cell equator requires filamentous actin. These results indicate that anillin is a conserved cleavage furrow component important for cytokinesis. Interactions with at least two other furrow proteins, actin and the septins, likely contribute to anillin function.
Monastrol, a cell-permeable small molecule inhibitor of the mitotic kinesin, Eg5, arrests cells in mitosis with monoastral spindles. Here, we use monastrol to probe mitotic mechanisms. We find that monastrol does not inhibit progression through S and G2 phases of the cell cycle or centrosome duplication. The mitotic arrest due to monastrol is also rapidly reversible. Chromosomes in monastrol-treated cells frequently have both sister kinetochores attached to microtubules extending to the center of the monoaster (syntelic orientation). Mitotic arrest-deficient protein 2 (Mad2) localizes to a subset of kinetochores, suggesting the activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint in these cells. Mad2 localizes to some kinetochores that have attached microtubules in monastrol-treated cells, indicating that kinetochore microtubule attachment alone may not satisfy the spindle assembly checkpoint. Monastrol also inhibits bipolar spindle formation in Xenopus egg extracts. However, it does not prevent the targeting of Eg5 to the monoastral spindles that form. Imaging bipolar spindles disassembling in the presence of monastrol allowed direct observations of outward directed forces in the spindle, orthogonal to the pole-to-pole axis. Monastrol is thus a useful tool to study mitotic processes, detection and correction of chromosome malorientation, and contributions of Eg5 to spindle assembly and maintenance.
Previous genetic and biochemical studies have led to the hypothesis that the essential mitotic bipolar kinesin, KLP61F, cross-links and slides microtubules (MTs) during spindle assembly and function. Here, we have tested this hypothesis by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy (immunoEM). We show that Drosophila embryonic spindles at metaphase and anaphase contain abundant bundles of MTs running between the spindle poles. These interpolar MT bundles are parallel near the poles and antiparallel in the midzone. We have observed that KLP61F motors, phosphorylated at a cdk1/cyclin B consensus domain within the BimC box (BCB), localize along the length of these interpolar MT bundles, being concentrated in the midzone region. Nonphosphorylated KLP61F motors, in contrast, are excluded from the spindle and display a cytoplasmic localization. Immunoelectron microscopy further suggested that phospho-KLP61F motors form cross-links between MTs within interpolar MT bundles. These bipolar KLP61F MT-MT cross-links should be capable of organizing parallel MTs into bundles within half spindles and sliding antiparallel MTs apart in the spindle midzone. Thus we propose that bipolar kinesin motors and MTs interact by a "sliding filament mechanism" during the formation and function of the mitotic spindle.
gamma-tubulin exists in two related complexes in Drosophila embryo extracts (Moritz, M., Y. Zheng, B.M. Alberts, and K. Oegema. 1998. J. Cell Biol. 142:1- 12). Here, we report the purification and characterization of both complexes that we name gamma-tubulin small complex (gammaTuSC; approximately 280,000 D) and Drosophila gammaTuRC ( approximately 2,200,000 D). In addition to gamma-tubulin, the gammaTuSC contains Dgrip84 and Dgrip91, two proteins homologous to the Spc97/98p protein family. The gammaTuSC is a structural subunit of the gammaTuRC, a larger complex containing about six additional polypeptides. Like the gammaTuRC isolated from Xenopus egg extracts (Zheng, Y., M.L. Wong, B. Alberts, and T. Mitchison. 1995. Nature. 378:578-583), the Drosophila gammaTuRC can nucleate microtubules in vitro and has an open ring structure with a diameter of 25 nm. Cryo-electron microscopy reveals a modular structure with approximately 13 radially arranged structural repeats. The gammaTuSC also nucleates microtubules, but much less efficiently than the gammaTuRC, suggesting that assembly into a larger complex enhances nucleating activity. Analysis of the nucleotide content of the gammaTuSC reveals that gamma-tubulin binds preferentially to GDP over GTP, rendering gamma-tubulin an unusual member of the tubulin superfamily.
Using in vitro assays with purified proteins, we show that XKCM1 and XKIF2, two distinct members of the internal catalytic domain (Kin I) kinesin subfamily, catalytically destabilize microtubules using a novel mechanism. Both XKCM1 and XKIF2 influence microtubule stability by targeting directly to microtubule ends where they induce a destabilizing conformational change. ATP hydrolysis recycles XKCM1/XKIF2 for multiple rounds of action by dissociating a XKCM1/ XKIF2-tubulin dimer complex released upon microtubule depolymerization. These results establish Kin I kinesins as microtubule-destabilizing enzymes, distinguish them mechanistically from kinesin superfamily members that use ATP hydrolysis to translocate along microtubules, and have important implications for the regulation of microtubule dynamics and for the intracellular functions and evolution of the kinesin superfamily.
Members of the kinesin superfamily are force-generating ATPases that drive movement and influence cytoskeleton organization in cells. Often, more than one kinesin is implicated in a cellular process, and many kinesins are proposed to have overlapping functions. By using conventional kinesin as a model system, we have developed an approach to activate or inhibit a specific kinesin allele in the presence of other similar motor proteins. Modified ATP analogs are described that do not activate either conventional kinesin or another superfamily member, Eg5. However, a kinesin allele with Arg-14 in its nucleotide binding pocket mutated to alanine can use a subset of these nucleotide analogs to drive microtubule gliding. Cyclopentyl-ATP is one such analog. Cyclopentyl-adenylylimidodiphosphate, a nonhydrolyzable form of this analog, inhibits the mutant allele in microtubule-gliding assays, but not wild-type kinesin or Eg5. We anticipate that the incorporation of kinesin mutants and allele-specific activators and inhibitors in in vitro assays should clarify the role of individual motor proteins in complex cellular processes.
Small molecules that perturb specific protein functions are valuable tools for dissecting complex processes in mammalian cells. A combination of two phenotype-based screens, one based on a specific posttranslational modification, the other visualizing microtubules and chromatin, was used to identify compounds that affect mitosis. One compound, here named monastrol, arrested mammalian cells in mitosis with monopolar spindles. In vitro, monastrol specifically inhibited the motility of the mitotic kinesin Eg5, a motor protein required for spindle bipolarity. All previously known small molecules that specifically affect the mitotic machinery target tubulin. Monastrol will therefore be a particularly useful tool for studying mitotic mechanisms.
Neutrophils respond to chemotactic stimuli by increasing the nucleation and polymerization of actin filaments, but the location and regulation of these processes are not well understood. Here, using a permeabilized-cell assay, we show that chemotactic stimuli cause neutrophils to organize many discrete sites of actin polymerization, the distribution of which is biased by external chemotactic gradients. Furthermore, the Arp2/3 complex, which can nucleate actin polymerization, dynamically redistributes to the region of living neutrophils that receives maximal chemotactic stimulation, and the least-extractable pool of the Arp2/3 complex co-localizes with sites of actin polymerization. Our observations indicate that chemoattractant-stimulated neutrophils may establish discrete foci of actin polymerization that are similar to those generated at the posterior surface of the intracellular bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. We propose that asymmetrical establishment and/or maintenance of sites of actin polymerization produces directional migration of neutrophils in response to chemotactic gradients.