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Actin filament stochastic dynamics


​For the first time, a team at the Plant Cell Physiology Laboratory has succeeded in reconstituting and visualising actin filament stochastic dynamics.​​​​

Published on 4 June 2007
The rapid dynamics of actin filaments is a fundamental process that powers a large number of cellular functions. However, the basic mechanisms that control and coordinate such dynamics remain a central question in cell biology.

To reach beyond simply defining the inventory of molecules that control actin dynamics and to understand how these proteins act synergistically to modulate filament turnover, a team at the Plant Cell Physiology Laboratory combined evanescent-wave microscopy with a biomimetic system and followed the behavior of single actin filaments in the presence of a physiologically relevant mixture of accessory proteins. This approach allows for the real-time visualization of actin polymerization and age-dependent filament severing.
In the presence of actin-depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin and profilin, actin filaments with a processive formin attached at their barbed ends were observed to oscillate between stochastic growth and shrinkage phases. Fragmentation of continuously growing actin filaments by ADF/cofilin is the key mechanism modulating the prominent and frequent shortening events. The net effect of continuous actin polymerization, driven by a processive formin that uses profilin-actin, and of ADF/cofilin-mediating severing that trims the aged ends of the growing filaments is an up to 155-fold increase in the rate of actin-filament turnover in vitro in comparison to that of actin alone. Lateral contact between actin filaments dampens the dynamics and favors actin-cable formation. A kinetic simulation accurately validates these observations.

The proposed mechanism for the control of actin dynamics is dominated by ADF/cofilin-mediated filament severing that induces a stochastic behavior upon individual actin filaments. When combined with a selection process that stabilizes filaments in bundles, this mechanism could account for the emergence and extension of actin-based structures in cells.

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