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1.  Dynamic F-actin movement is essential for fertilization in Arabidopsis thaliana 
eLife  2014;3:e04501.
In animals, microtubules and centrosomes direct the migration of gamete pronuclei for fertilization. By contrast, flowering plants have lost essential components of the centrosome, raising the question of how flowering plants control gamete nuclei migration during fertilization. Here, we use Arabidopsis thaliana to document a novel mechanism that regulates F-actin dynamics in the female gametes and is essential for fertilization. Live imaging shows that F-actin structures assist the male nucleus during its migration towards the female nucleus. We identify a female gamete-specific Rho-GTPase that regulates F-actin dynamics and further show that actin–myosin interactions are also involved in male gamete nucleus migration. Genetic analyses and imaging indicate that microtubules are dispensable for migration and fusion of male and female gamete nuclei. The innovation of a novel actin-based mechanism of fertilization during plant evolution might account for the complete loss of the centrosome in flowering plants.
eLife digest
Sexual reproduction involves combining the genetic material from two parents to create an offspring. The genetic material in the male sperm cell and the female egg cell is contained in the nucleus of each cell. Once these two cells fuse at fertilization, their nuclei must then navigate towards each other and fuse.
When an animal egg cell is fertilized, cable-like protein filaments called microtubules guide the two nuclei into contact. These microtubules are organized by a cellular structure called a centrosome. However, flowering plants do not have centrosomes; as such, it was unclear how genetic material from the sperm and egg cells is brought together after fertilization in flowering plants.
To investigate this, Kawashima et al. turned to a flowering plant commonly used in research, called Arabidopsis thaliana, and found that microtubules are not needed to guide the nuclei of the sperm and the egg cell after fertilization. Instead, another cable-forming protein—called F-actin—fulfills a similar role in Arabidopsis cells.
F-actin filaments often connect together to form a network; and when Kawashima et al. disrupted the F-actin in Arabidopsis egg cells, the nucleus of the sperm cell failed to fuse with that of the female. Pollen from Arabidopsis plants actually contains two sperm cells. One sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell; the other fertilizes the so-called ‘central cell’, which develops into a tissue that nourishes the plant embryo. Kawashima et al. found that the fertilization of both of these cells requires an intact F-actin network.
By looking more closely at F-actin networks in the larger central cell, Kawashima et al. discovered that the sperm nucleus becomes surrounded by a star-shaped structure of F-actin cables and that this F-actin structure migrates together with the sperm nucleus. The F-actin network constantly moves inward, from the edges of the cell towards the nucleus, prior to fertilization. This movement is essential for guiding the sperm nucleus towards the central cell nucleus.
Kawashima et al. also found that this continual movement of the F-actin network depends on a small signaling protein found in the central cell, called ROP8. It also involves a motor protein that normally transports “cargo”, such as proteins and other molecules, inside cells by walking along the F-actin networks. However, rather than transporting the sperm nucleus as cargo, Kawashima et al. believe that the motor protein instead helps to maintain the inward movement of the F-actin network. One of the next challenges will be to investigate the molecular mechanism that underlies this motor protein's involvement in this dynamic F-actin network.
PMCID: PMC4221737  PMID: 25303363
fertilization; cytoskeleton; gamete nuclear migration; Rho-GTPase; F-actin; reproduction; Arabidopsis
2.  Phototropin-dependent biased relocalization of cp-actin filaments can be induced even when chloroplast movement is inhibited 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(11):1651-1653.
In a recent publication using an actin-visualized line of Arabidopsis (Ichikawa et al. 2011, ref. 11), we reported a detailed analysis with higher time resolution on the dynamics of chloroplast actin filaments (cp-actin filaments) during chloroplast avoidance movement and demonstrated a good correlation between the biased configuration of cp-actin filaments and chloroplast movement. However, we could not conclusively determine whether the reorganization of cp-actin filaments into a biased configuration preceded actual chloroplast movement (and, thus, whether it could be a cause of the movement). In this report, we present clear evidence that the reorganization of cp-actin filaments into a biased distribution is induced even in the absence of the actual movement of chloroplasts. When the cells were treated with 2,3-butanedione monoxime (BDM), a potent inhibitor of myosin ATPase, chloroplast motility was completely suppressed. Nevertheless, the disappearance and biased relocalization of cp-actin filaments toward the side of the prospective movement direction were induced by irradiation with a strong blue light microbeam. The results definitively indicate that the reorganization of cp-actin filaments is not an effect of chloroplast movement; however, it is feasible that the biased localization of cp-actin filaments is an event leading to chloroplast movement.
PMCID: PMC3329327  PMID: 22057335
Actin filament; Arabidopsis; Chloroplast movement; Organelle movement; Photomovement; Phototropin
3.  Structure and activity of JAC1 J-domain implicate the involvement of the cochaperone activity with HSC70 in chloroplast photorelocation movement 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(12):1602-1606.
Chloroplast photorelocation movement towards weak light and away from strong light is essential for plants to adapt to the fluctuation of ambient light conditions. In the previous study, we showed that blue light receptor phototropins mediated blue light-induced chloroplast movement in Arabidopsis by regulating short actin filaments localized at the chloroplast periphery (cp-actin filaments) rather than actin cables in the cytoplasm. However, the signaling pathway for the chloroplast photorelocation movement is still unclear. We also identified JAC1 (J-domain protein required for chloroplast accumulation response 1) as an essential component for the accumulation response and dark positioning in Arabidopsis. We recently determined the crystal structure of the J-domain of JAC1. The JAC1 J-domain has a positively charged surface, which forms a putative interface with the Hsc70 chaperone by analogy to that of bovine auxilin. Furthermore, the mutation of the highly conserved HPD motif in the JAC1 J-domain impaired the in vivo activity of JAC1. These data suggest that JAC1 cochaperone activity with HSC70 is essential for chloroplast photorelocation movement.
PMCID: PMC3115112  PMID: 21139434
Arabidopsis; auxilin; blue light; clathrin; endocytosis; J-domain; organelle movement; phototropin
4.  Actin-based mechanisms for light-dependent intracellular positioning of nuclei and chloroplasts in Arabidopsis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(8):1010-1013.
The plant organelles, chloroplast and nucleus, change their position in response to light. In Arabidopsis thaliana leaf cells, chloroplasts and nuclei are distributed along the inner periclinal wall in darkness. In strong blue light, they become positioned along the anticlinal wall, while in weak blue light, only chloroplasts are accumulated along the inner and outer periclinal walls. Blue-light dependent positioning of both organelles is mediated by the blue-light receptor phototropin and controlled by the actin cytoskeleton. Interestingly, however, it seems that chloroplast movement requires short, fine actin filaments organized at the chloroplast edge, whereas nuclear movement does cytoplasmic, thick actin bundles intimately associated with the nucleus. Although there are many similarities between photo-relocation movements of chloroplasts and nuclei, plant cells appear to have evolved distinct mechanisms to regulate actin organization required for driving the movements of these organelles.
PMCID: PMC3115182  PMID: 20724834
actin; Arabidopsis; blue light; chloroplast positioning; phototropin; nuclear positioning
5.  Phototropin Mediated Relocation of Myosins in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2007;2(5):333-336.
The mechanism of the light-dependent movements of chloroplasts is based on actin and myosin but its details are largely unknown. The movements are activated by blue light in terrestrial angiosperms. The aim of the present study was to determine the role of myosin associated with the chloroplast surface in the light-induced chloroplast responses in Arabidopsis thaliana. The localization of myosins was investigated under blue light intensities generating avoidance and accumulation responses of chloroplasts. The localization was compared in wild type plants and in phot2 mutant lacking the avoidance response.
Wild type and phot2 mutant plants were irradiated with strong (36 µEm−2s−1) and/or weak (0.8 µEm−2s−1) blue light. The leaf tissue was immunolabeled with antimyosin antibodies. Different arrangements of myosins were observed in the mesophyll depending on the fluence rate in wild type plants. In tissue irradiated with weak blue light myosins were associated with chloroplast envelopes. In contrast, in tissue irradiated with strong blue light chloroplasts were almost myosin-free. The effect did not occur in red light and in the phot2 mutant.
Myosin displacement is blue light specific, i.e., it is associated with the activation of a specific blue-light photoreceptor. We suggest that the reorganization of myosins is essential for chloroplast movement. Myosins appear to be the final step of the signal transduction pathway starting with phototropin2 and leading to chloroplast movements.
PMCID: PMC2634205  PMID: 19516997
Arabidopsis; blue light; chloroplast movements; myosins; phototropins
6.  In vivo reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton in leaves of Nicotiana tabacum L. transformed with plastin-GFP. Correlation with light-activated chloroplast responses 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:64.
The actin cytoskeleton is involved in the responses of plants to environmental signals. Actin bundles play the role of tracks in chloroplast movements activated by light. Chloroplasts redistribute in response to blue light in the mesophyll cells of Nicotiana tabacum. The aim of this work was to study the relationship between chloroplast responses and the organization of actin cytoskeleton in living tobacco cells. Chloroplast movements were measured photometrically as changes in light transmission through the leaves. The actin cytoskeleton, labeled with plastin-GFP, was visualised by confocal microscopy.
The actin cytoskeleton was affected by strong blue and red light. No blue light specific actin reorganization was detected. EGTA and trifluoperazine strongly inhibited chloroplast responses and disrupted the integrity of the cytoskeleton. This disruption was reversible by Ca2+ or Mg2+. Additionally, the effect of trifluoperazine was reversible by light. Wortmannin, an inhibitor of phosphoinositide kinases, potently inhibited chloroplast responses but did not influence the actin cytoskeleton at the same concentration. Also this inhibition was reversed by Ca2+ and Mg2+. Magnesium ions were equally or more effective than Ca2+ in restoring chloroplast motility after treatment with EGTA, trifluoperazine or wortmannin.
The architecture of the actin cytoskeleton in the mesophyll of tobacco is significantly modulated by strong light. This modulation does not affect the direction of chloroplast redistribution in the cell. Calcium ions have multiple functions in the mechanism of the movements. Our results suggest also that Mg2+ is a regulatory molecule cooperating with Ca2+ in the signaling pathway of blue light-induced tobacco chloroplast movements.
PMCID: PMC2702303  PMID: 19480655
7.  Head-neck domain of Arabidopsis myosin XI, MYA2, fused with GFP produces F-actin patterns that coincide with fast organelle streaming in different plant cells 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:74.
The cytoskeletal mechanisms that underlie organelle transport in plants are intimately linked to acto-myosin function. This function is mediated by the attachment of myosin heads to F-actin and the binding of cargo to the tails. Acto-myosin also powers vigorous cytoplasmic streaming in plant cells. Class XI myosins exhibit strikingly fast velocities and may have extraordinary roles in cellular motility. Studies of the structural basis of organelle transport have focused on the cargo-binding tails of myosin XI, revealing a close relationship with the transport of peroxisomes, mitochondria, and Golgi-vesicles. Links between myosin heads and F-actin-based motility have been less investigated. To address this function, we performed localization studies using the head-neck domain of AtMYA2, a myosin XI from Arabidopsis.
We expressed the GFP-fused head-neck domain of MYA2 in epidermal cells of various plant species and found that it associated with F-actin. By comparison to other markers such as fimbrin and talin, we revealed that the myosin-labeled F-actin was of a lower quality and absent from the fine microfilament arrays at the cell cortex. However, it colocalized with cytoplasmic (transvacuolar) F-actin in areas coinciding with the tracks of fast organelles. This observation correlates well with the proposed function of myosin XI in organelle trafficking. The fact that organelle streaming was reduced in cells expressing the GFP-MYA2-head6IQ indicated that the functionless motor protein inhibits endogenous myosins. Furthermore, co-expression of the GFP-MYA2-head6IQ with other F-actin markers disrupted its attachment to F-actin. In nuclei, the GFP-myosin associated with short bundles of F-actin.
The localization of the head of MYA2 in living plant cells, as investigated here for the first time, suggests a close linkage between this myosin XI and cytoplasmic microfilaments that support the rapid streaming of organelles such as peroxisomes. Potential roles of MYA2 may also exist in the cell nucleus. Whether the low quality of the F-actin-labeling by MYA2-head6IQ compared to other F-actin-binding proteins (ABPs) signifies a weak association of the myosin with actin filaments remains to be proven by other means than in vivo. Clues for the mode of contact between the myosin molecules and F-actin so far cannot be drawn from sequence-related data.
PMCID: PMC2504477  PMID: 18598361
8.  Association of six YFP-myosin XI-tail fusions with mobile plant cell organelles 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:6.
Myosins are molecular motors that carry cargo on actin filaments in eukaryotic cells. Seventeen myosin genes have been identified in the nuclear genome of Arabidopsis. The myosin genes can be divided into two plant-specific subfamilies, class VIII with four members and class XI with 13 members. Class XI myosins are related to animal and fungal myosin class V that are responsible for movement of particular vesicles and organelles. Organelle localization of only one of the 13 Arabidopsis myosin XI (myosin XI-6; At MYA2), which is found on peroxisomes, has so far been reported. Little information is available concerning the remaining 12 class XI myosins.
We investigated 6 of the 13 class XI Arabidopsis myosins. cDNAs corresponding to the tail region of 6 myosin genes were generated and incorporated into a vector to encode YFP-myosin tail fusion proteins lacking the motor domain. Chimeric genes incorporating tail regions of myosin XI-5 (At MYA1), myosin XI-6 (At MYA2), myosin XI-8 (At XI-B), myosin XI-15 (At XI-I), myosin XI-16 (At XI-J) and myosin XI-17 (At XI-K) were expressed transiently. All YFP-myosin-tail fusion proteins were targeted to small organelles ranging in size from 0.5 to 3.0 μm. Despite the absence of a motor domain, the fluorescently-labeled organelles were motile in most cells. Tail cropping experiments demonstrated that the coiled-coil region was required for specific localization and shorter tail regions were inadequate for targeting. Myosin XI-6 (At MYA2), previously reported to localize to peroxisomes by immunofluorescence, labeled both peroxisomes and vesicles when expressed as a YFP-tail fusion. None of the 6 YFP-myosin tail fusions interacted with chloroplasts, and only one YFP-tail fusion appeared to sometimes co-localize with fluorescent proteins targeted to Golgi and mitochondria.
6 myosin XI tails, extending from the coiled-coil region to the C-terminus, label specific vesicles and/or organelles when transiently expressed as YFP fusions in plant cells. Although comparable constructs lacking the motor domain result in a dominant negative effect on organelle motility in animal systems, the plant organelles remained motile. YFP-myosin tail fusions provide specific labeling for vesicles of unknown composition, whose identity can be investigated in future studies.
PMCID: PMC1802837  PMID: 17288617
9.  Myosin-Va and Dynamic Actin Oppose Microtubules to Drive Long-Range Organelle Transport 
Current Biology  2014;24(15):1743-1750.
In animal cells, microtubule and actin tracks and their associated motors (dynein, kinesin, and myosin) are thought to regulate long- and short-range transport, respectively [1–8]. Consistent with this, microtubules extend from the perinuclear centrosome to the plasma membrane and allow bidirectional cargo transport over long distances (>1 μm). In contrast, actin often comprises a complex network of short randomly oriented filaments, suggesting that myosin motors move cargo short distances. These observations underpin the “highways and local roads” model for transport along microtubule and actin tracks [2]. The “cooperative capture” model exemplifies this view and suggests that melanosome distribution in melanocyte dendrites is maintained by long-range transport on microtubules followed by actin/myosin-Va-dependent tethering [5, 9]. In this study, we used cell normalization technology to quantitatively examine the contribution of microtubules and actin/myosin-Va to organelle distribution in melanocytes. Surprisingly, our results indicate that microtubules are essential for centripetal, but not centrifugal, transport. Instead, we find that microtubules retard a centrifugal transport process that is dependent on myosin-Va and a population of dynamic F-actin. Functional analysis of mutant proteins indicates that myosin-Va works as a transporter dispersing melanosomes along actin tracks whose +/barbed ends are oriented toward the plasma membrane. Overall, our data highlight the role of myosin-Va and actin in transport, and not tethering, and suggest a new model in which organelle distribution is determined by the balance between microtubule-dependent centripetal and myosin-Va/actin-dependent centrifugal transport. These observations appear to be consistent with evidence coming from other systems showing that actin/myosin networks can drive long-distance organelle transport and positioning [10, 11].
Graphical Abstract
•Microtubules are essential for centripetal, but not centrifugal, melanosome transport•Myosin-Va and a dynamic actin pool drive long-range centrifugal melanosome transport•Myosin-Va is a processive plus-end-directed motor, and not a tether, in melanocytes•Opposing myosin-Va/actin and microtubule forces regulate melanosome distribution
In animal cells, microtubules and actin are thought to regulate long- and short-range transport, respectively. Here, Evans et al. test the contribution of these systems to organelle transport using melanocyte pigment granules as a model. Surprisingly, they find that myosin-Va and dynamic actin drive long-range transport to the membrane.
PMCID: PMC4131108  PMID: 25065759
10.  Bundling actin filaments from membranes: some novel players 
Progress in live-cell imaging of the cytoskeleton has significantly extended our knowledge about the organization and dynamics of actin filaments near the plasma membrane of plant cells. Noticeably, two populations of filamentous structures can be distinguished. On the one hand, fine actin filaments which exhibit an extremely dynamic behavior basically characterized by fast polymerization and prolific severing events, a process referred to as actin stochastic dynamics. On the other hand, thick actin bundles which are composed of several filaments and which are comparatively more stable although they constantly remodel as well. There is evidence that the actin cytoskeleton plays critical roles in trafficking and signaling at both the cell cortex and organelle periphery but the exact contribution of actin bundles remains unclear. A common view is that actin bundles provide the long-distance tracks used by myosin motors to deliver their cargo to growing regions and accordingly play a particularly important role in cell polarization. However, several studies support that actin bundles are more than simple passive highways and display multiple and dynamic roles in the regulation of many processes, such as cell elongation, polar auxin transport, stomatal and chloroplast movement, and defense against pathogens. The list of identified plant actin-bundling proteins is ever expanding, supporting that plant cells shape structurally and functionally different actin bundles. Here I review the most recently characterized actin-bundling proteins, with a particular focus on those potentially relevant to membrane trafficking and/or signaling.
PMCID: PMC3426786  PMID: 22936939
actin bundling; fimbrins; formins; LIM proteins; SCAB1; THRUMIN1; V-ATPases; villins
11.  Actin Turnover Is Required for Myosin-Dependent Mitochondrial Movements in Arabidopsis Root Hairs 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5961.
Previous studies have shown that plant mitochondrial movements are myosin-based along actin filaments, which undergo continuous turnover by the exchange of actin subunits from existing filaments. Although earlier studies revealed that actin filament dynamics are essential for many functions of the actin cytoskeleton, there are little data connecting actin dynamics and mitochondrial movements.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We addressed the role of actin filament dynamics in the control of mitochondrial movements by treating cells with various pharmaceuticals that affect actin filament assembly and disassembly. Confocal microscopy of Arabidopsis thaliana root hairs expressing GFP-FABD2 as an actin filament reporter showed that mitochondrial distribution was in agreement with the arrangement of actin filaments in root hairs at different developmental stages. Analyses of mitochondrial trajectories and instantaneous velocities immediately following pharmacological perturbation of the cytoskeleton using variable-angle evanescent wave microscopy and/or spinning disk confocal microscopy revealed that mitochondrial velocities were regulated by myosin activity and actin filament dynamics. Furthermore, simultaneous visualization of mitochondria and actin filaments suggested that mitochondrial positioning might involve depolymerization of actin filaments on the surface of mitochondria.
Base on these results we propose a mechanism for the regulation of mitochondrial speed of movements, positioning, and direction of movements that combines the coordinated activity of myosin and the rate of actin turnover, together with microtubule dynamics, which directs the positioning of actin polymerization events.
PMCID: PMC2694364  PMID: 19536333
12.  Direct Observation of the Myosin Va Recovery Stroke That Contributes to Unidirectional Stepping along Actin 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(4):e1001031.
Myosins are ATP-driven linear molecular motors that work as cellular force generators, transporters, and force sensors. These functions are driven by large-scale nucleotide-dependent conformational changes, termed “strokes”; the “power stroke” is the force-generating swinging of the myosin light chain–binding “neck” domain relative to the motor domain “head” while bound to actin; the “recovery stroke” is the necessary initial motion that primes, or “cocks,” myosin while detached from actin. Myosin Va is a processive dimer that steps unidirectionally along actin following a “hand over hand” mechanism in which the trailing head detaches and steps forward ∼72 nm. Despite large rotational Brownian motion of the detached head about a free joint adjoining the two necks, unidirectional stepping is achieved, in part by the power stroke of the attached head that moves the joint forward. However, the power stroke alone cannot fully account for preferential forward site binding since the orientation and angle stability of the detached head, which is determined by the properties of the recovery stroke, dictate actin binding site accessibility. Here, we directly observe the recovery stroke dynamics and fluctuations of myosin Va using a novel, transient caged ATP-controlling system that maintains constant ATP levels through stepwise UV-pulse sequences of varying intensity. We immobilized the neck of monomeric myosin Va on a surface and observed real time motions of bead(s) attached site-specifically to the head. ATP induces a transient swing of the neck to the post-recovery stroke conformation, where it remains for ∼40 s, until ATP hydrolysis products are released. Angle distributions indicate that the post-recovery stroke conformation is stabilized by ≥5 kBT of energy. The high kinetic and energetic stability of the post-recovery stroke conformation favors preferential binding of the detached head to a forward site 72 nm away. Thus, the recovery stroke contributes to unidirectional stepping of myosin Va.
Author Summary
Myosin Va is a “two-legged” ATP-dependent linear molecular motor that transports cellular organelles by “stepping” along actin filaments in a processive manner analogous to human walking, the two “feet” alternating between forward and backward positions. During stepping, the lifted leg undergoes rotational Brownian movements around a free joint at the leg–leg junction. Although these movements are random, the lifted foot lands preferentially on forward sites and rarely steps backward. This directional bias arises in part from the forward movement of the junction bending the “ankle” of the attached leg. Here, we show that the lifted foot also plays a role in the direction of stepping by controlling the orientation of its actin-binding site (the “sole”), which dictates the accessibility of potential stepping positions. We observed the ATP-dependent foot orientation and its stabilizing on individual myosin Va molecules in real time under an optical microscope; we show that the lifted foot of walking myosin Va is oriented in a “toe-down” conformation so that binding to a forward site on actin is preferred largely over backward or adjacent sites. Thus, the great kinetic and energetic stability of the myosin Va lifted foot conformation contributes to unidirectional stepping along actin filaments.
PMCID: PMC3075224  PMID: 21532738
13.  Molecular Mechanical Differences between Isoforms of Contractile Actin in the Presence of Isoforms of Smooth Muscle Tropomyosin 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(10):e1003273.
The proteins involved in smooth muscle's molecular contractile mechanism – the anti-parallel motion of actin and myosin filaments driven by myosin heads interacting with actin – are found as different isoforms. While their expression levels are altered in disease states, their relevance to the mechanical interaction of myosin with actin is not sufficiently understood. Here, we analyzed in vitro actin filament propulsion by smooth muscle myosin for -actin (A), -actin-tropomyosin- (A-Tm), -actin-tropomyosin- (A-Tm), -actin (A), -actin-tropomyosin- (A-Tm), and -actin-tropomoysin- (A-Tm). Actin sliding analysis with our specifically developed video analysis software followed by statistical assessment (Bootstrapped Principal Component Analysis) indicated that the in vitro motility of A, A, and A-Tm is not distinguishable. Compared to these three ‘baseline conditions’, statistically significant differences () were: A-Tm – actin sliding velocity increased 1.12-fold, A-Tm – motile fraction decreased to 0.96-fold, stop time elevated 1.6-fold, A-Tm – run time elevated 1.7-fold. We constructed a mathematical model, simulated actin sliding data, and adjusted the kinetic parameters so as to mimic the experimentally observed differences: A-Tm – myosin binding to actin, the main, and the secondary myosin power stroke are accelerated, A-Tm – mechanical coupling between myosins is stronger, A-Tm – the secondary power stroke is decelerated and mechanical coupling between myosins is weaker. In summary, our results explain the different regulatory effects that specific combinations of actin and smooth muscle tropomyosin have on smooth muscle actin-myosin interaction kinetics.
Author Summary
Dependent on the required physiological function, smooth muscle executes relatively fast contraction-relaxation cycles or maintains long-term contraction. The proteins driving contraction – amongst them actin, tropomyosin, and the contraction-driving myosin motor – can show small changes in the way they are constructed, they can be expressed as different “isoforms”. The isoforms are supposedly tailored to support the specific contraction patterns, but for tropomyosin and actin it is unclear exactly how the isoforms' differences affect the interaction of actin and myosin that generates the muscle contraction. We measured actin movement outside the cellular environment, focusing on the effects of different isoform combinations of only actin, myosin, and tropomyosin. We found that the actin isoforms cause differences in the mechanical interaction only when tropomyosin is present, not without it. Also, all different actin-tropomyosin combinations affected the mechanical interactions in a different way. In our experiments we could not directly observe the mechanical interactions of actin, tropomyosin, and myosin, so we reconstructed them in a mathematical model. With this model, we could determine in detail how the different actin-tropomyosin combinations caused the differences that we observed in our experiments.
PMCID: PMC3812040  PMID: 24204225
14.  Coupling of Lever Arm Swing and Biased Brownian Motion in Actomyosin 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(4):e1003552.
An important unresolved problem associated with actomyosin motors is the role of Brownian motion in the process of force generation. On the basis of structural observations of myosins and actins, the widely held lever-arm hypothesis has been proposed, in which proteins are assumed to show sequential structural changes among observed and hypothesized structures to exert mechanical force. An alternative hypothesis, the Brownian motion hypothesis, has been supported by single-molecule experiments and emphasizes more on the roles of fluctuating protein movement. In this study, we address the long-standing controversy between the lever-arm hypothesis and the Brownian motion hypothesis through in silico observations of an actomyosin system. We study a system composed of myosin II and actin filament by calculating free-energy landscapes of actin-myosin interactions using the molecular dynamics method and by simulating transitions among dynamically changing free-energy landscapes using the Monte Carlo method. The results obtained by this combined multi-scale calculation show that myosin with inorganic phosphate (Pi) and ADP weakly binds to actin and that after releasing Pi and ADP, myosin moves along the actin filament toward the strong-binding site by exhibiting the biased Brownian motion, a behavior consistent with the observed single-molecular behavior of myosin. Conformational flexibility of loops at the actin-interface of myosin and the N-terminus of actin subunit is necessary for the distinct bias in the Brownian motion. Both the 5.5–11 nm displacement due to the biased Brownian motion and the 3–5 nm displacement due to lever-arm swing contribute to the net displacement of myosin. The calculated results further suggest that the recovery stroke of the lever arm plays an important role in enhancing the displacement of myosin through multiple cycles of ATP hydrolysis, suggesting a unified movement mechanism for various members of the myosin family.
Author Summary
Myosin II is a molecular motor that is fueled by ATP hydrolysis and generates mechanical force by interacting with actin filament. Comparison among various myosin structures obtained by X-ray and electron microscope analyses has led to the hypothesis that structural change of myosin in ATP hydrolysis cycle is the driving mechanism of force generation. However, single-molecule experiments have suggested an alternative mechanism in which myosin moves stochastically in a biased direction along actin filament. Computer simulation serves as a platform for assessing these hypotheses by revealing the prominent features of the dynamically changing landscape of actin-myosin interaction. The calculated results show that myosin binds to actin at different locations of actin filament in the weak- and strong-binding states and that the free energy has a global gradient from the weak-binding site to the strong-binding site. Myosin relaxing into the strong-binding state therefore necessarily shows the biased Brownian motion toward the strong-binding site. Lever-arm swing is induced during this relaxation process; therefore, lever-arm swing and the biased Brownian motion are coupled to contribute to the net displacement of myosin. This coupling should affect the dynamical behaviors of muscle and cardiac systems.
PMCID: PMC3998885  PMID: 24762409
15.  Actin-dependent mitochondrial motility in mitotic yeast and cell-free systems: identification of a motor activity on the mitochondrial surface 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1995;130(2):345-354.
Using fluorescent membrane potential sensing dyes to stain budding yeast, mitochondria are resolved as tubular organelles aligned in radial arrays that converge at the bud neck. Time-lapse fluorescence microscopy reveals region-specific, directed mitochondrial movement during polarized yeast cell growth and mitotic cell division. Mitochondria in the central region of the mother cell move linearly towards the bud, traverse the bud neck, and progress towards the bud tip at an average velocity of 49 +/- 21 nm/sec. In contrast, mitochondria in the peripheral region of the mother cell and at the bud tip display significantly less movement. Yeast strains containing temperature sensitive lethal mutations in the actin gene show abnormal mitochondrial distribution. No mitochondrial movement is evident in these mutants after short-term shift to semi-permissive temperatures. Thus, the actin cytoskeleton is important for normal mitochondrial movement during inheritance. To determine the possible role of known myosin genes in yeast mitochondrial motility, we investigated mitochondrial inheritance in myo1, myo2, myo3 and myo4 single mutants and in a myo2, myo4 double mutant. Mitochondrial spatial arrangement and motility are not significantly affected by these mutations. We used a microfilament sliding assay to examine motor activity on isolated yeast mitochondria. Rhodamine-phalloidin labeled yeast actin filaments bind to immobilized yeast mitochondria, as well as unilamellar, right- side-out, sealed mitochondrial outer membrane vesicles. In the presence of low levels of ATP (0.1-100 microM), we observed F-actin sliding on immobilized yeast mitochondria. In the presence of high levels of ATP (500 microM-2 mM), bound filaments are released from mitochondria and mitochondrial outer membranes. The maximum velocity of mitochondria- driven microfilament sliding (23 +/- 11 nm/sec) is similar to that of mitochondrial movement in living cells. This motor activity requires hydrolysis of ATP, does not require cytosolic extracts, is sensitive to protease treatment, and displays an ATP concentration dependence similar to that of members of the myosin family of actin-based motors. This is the first demonstration of an actin-based motor activity in a defined organelle population.
PMCID: PMC2199926  PMID: 7615636
16.  Moving the green 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2008;3(7):488-489.
Chloroplast movement as a response of plants to light variations is presented as an example in each classical textbook, showing that these organelles accumulate in response to low light and avoid high light irradiation. In sharp contrast to the morphological discovery of the phenomenon, which dates back more than a century, the molecular understanding of this effect is just at its beginning and only recently first components of the signal cascade initiating this process were described. Among these, a protein termed CHUP1 was identified. This protein is present in the outer membrane of chloroplasts and thereby discussed as the first component of a possible ‘moving ensemble’ assembling at the ‘moved cargo’. The protein is able to interact with actin and profilin—and even more, is able to regulate this interaction in vitro. Thereby, today it can be stated that actin filament reformation and chloroplast repositioning are coordinated if not dependent on each other.
PMCID: PMC2634439  PMID: 19704495
chloroplast movement; profilin binding; actin binding; avoidance response of chloroplasts
17.  Visualization of Melanosome Dynamics within Wild-Type and Dilute Melanocytes Suggests a Paradigm for Myosin V Function In Vivo  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1998;143(7):1899-1918.
Unlike wild-type mouse melanocytes, where melanosomes are concentrated in dendrites and dendritic tips, melanosomes in dilute (myosin Va−) melanocytes are concentrated in the cell center. Here we sought to define the role that myosin Va plays in melanosome transport and distribution. Actin filaments that comprise a cortical shell running the length of the dendrite were found to exhibit a random orientation, suggesting that myosin Va could drive the outward spreading of melanosomes by catalyzing random walks. In contrast to this mechanism, time lapse video microscopy revealed that melanosomes undergo rapid (∼1.5 μm/s) microtubule-dependent movements to the periphery and back again. This bidirectional traffic occurs in both wild-type and dilute melanocytes, but it is more obvious in dilute melanocytes because the only melanosomes in their periphery are those undergoing this movement. While providing an efficient means to transport melanosomes to the periphery, this component does not by itself result in their net accumulation there. These observations, together with previous studies showing extensive colocalization of myosin Va and melanosomes in the actin-rich periphery, suggest a mechanism in which a myosin Va–dependent interaction of melanosomes with F-actin in the periphery prevents these organelles from returning on microtubules to the cell center, causing their distal accumulation. This “capture” model is supported by the demonstration that (a) expression of the myosin Va tail domain within wild-type cells creates a dilute-like phenotype via a process involving initial colocalization of tail domains with melanosomes in the periphery, followed by an ∼120-min, microtubule-based redistribution of melanosomes to the cell center; (b) microtubule-dependent melanosome movement appears to be damped by myosin Va; (c) intermittent, microtubule-independent, ∼0.14 μm/s melanosome movements are seen only in wild-type melanocytes; and (d) these movements do not drive obvious spreading of melanosomes over 90 min. We conclude that long-range, bidirectional, microtubule-dependent melanosome movements, coupled with actomyosin Va–dependent capture of melanosomes in the periphery, is the predominant mechanism responsible for the centrifugal transport and peripheral accumulation of melanosomes in mouse melanocytes. This mechanism represents an alternative to straightforward transport models when interpreting other myosin V mutant phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2175227  PMID: 9864363
myosin V; dilute; melanosomes; microtubule motors; organelle motility
18.  Pb-Induced Avoidance-Like Chloroplast Movements in Fronds of Lemna trisulca L. 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0116757.
Lead ions are particularly dangerous to the photosynthetic apparatus, but little is known about the effects of trace metals, including Pb, on regulation of chloroplast redistribution. In this study a new effect of lead on chloroplast distribution patterns and movements was demonstrated in mesophyll cells of a small-sized aquatic angiosperm Lemna trisulca L. (star duckweed). An analysis of confocal microscopy images of L. trisulca fronds treated with lead (15 μM Pb2+, 24 h) in darkness or in weak white light revealed an enhanced accumulation of chloroplasts in the profile position along the anticlinal cell walls, in comparison to untreated plants. The rearrangement of chloroplasts in their response to lead ions in darkness was similar to the avoidance response of chloroplasts in plants treated with strong white light. Transmission electron microscopy X-ray microanalysis showed that intracellular chloroplast arrangement was independent of the location of Pb deposits, suggesting that lead causes redistribution of chloroplasts, which looks like a light-induced avoidance response, but is not a real avoidance response to the metal. Furthermore, a similar redistribution of chloroplasts in L. trisulca cells in darkness was observed also under the influence of exogenously applied hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). In addition, we detected an enhanced accumulation of endogenous H2O2 after treatment of plants with lead. Interestingly, H2O2-specific scavenger catalase partly abolished the Pb-induced chloroplast response. These results suggest that H2O2 can be involved in the avoidance-like movement of chloroplasts induced by lead. Analysis of photometric measurements revealed also strong inhibition (but not complete) of blue-light-induced chloroplast movements by lead. This inhibition may result from disturbances in the actin cytoskeleton, as we observed fragmentation and disappearance of actin filaments around chloroplasts. Results of this study show that the mechanisms of the toxic effect of lead on chloroplasts can include disturbances in their movement and distribution pattern.
PMCID: PMC4315572  PMID: 25646776
19.  Myosin VIII associates with microtubule ends and together with actin plays a role in guiding plant cell division 
eLife  2014;3:e03498.
Plant cells divide using the phragmoplast, a microtubule-based structure that directs vesicles secretion to the nascent cell plate. The phragmoplast forms at the cell center and expands to reach a specified site at the cell periphery, tens or hundreds of microns distant. The mechanism responsible for guiding the phragmoplast remains largely unknown. Here, using both moss and tobacco, we show that myosin VIII associates with the ends of phragmoplast microtubules and together with actin plays a role in guiding phragmoplast expansion to the cortical division site. Our data lead to a model whereby myosin VIII links phragmoplast microtubules to the cortical division site via actin filaments. Myosin VIII's motor activity along actin provides a molecular mechanism for steering phragmoplast expansion.
eLife digest
Plant cells are surrounded by a membrane, which controls what enters and leaves the cell, and a cell wall, which provides rigidity. When a plant cell is ready to divide, it needs to produce two new cell membranes, with a new cell wall sandwiched between them, to split the cell contents into two daughter cells.
During the division process the cell builds a scaffold called the phragmoplast that guides the delivery of the materials that are needed to make the new cell wall and membranes. The phragmoplast—which is made of rod-like proteins called microtubules and actin filaments—starts at the centre of the cell and expands towards a pre-determined site on the existing cell wall. The question is: how does the phragmoplast target this site, which can be tens or hundreds of microns away?
Wu and Bezanilla have now found that a protein called myosin VIII has a central role in guiding the growing phragmoplast to the cell wall. Myosin VIII is a motor protein that moves along actin filaments. Wu and Bezanilla propose that myosin VIII can guide the expansion of the phragmoplast by pulling microtubules along the actin filaments.
The experiments were carried out on two distantly-related plant species, tobacco and a moss called Physcomitrella patens. Similar results were found in both species so it is possible that myosin VIII may play the same role in cell division in all plants.
PMCID: PMC4171706  PMID: 25247701
Physcomitrella patens; tobacco BY-2; phragmoplast; actin; microtubules; myosin; none
20.  Myosin VI Stabilizes an Actin Network during Drosophila Spermatid Individualization 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(6):2559-2571.
Here, we demonstrate a new function of myosin VI using observations of Drosophila spermatid individualization in vivo. We find that myosin VI stabilizes a branched actin network in actin structures (cones) that mediate the separation of the syncytial spermatids. In a myosin VI mutant, the cones do not accumulate F-actin during cone movement, whereas overexpression of myosin VI leads to bigger cones with more F-actin. Myosin subfragment 1-fragment decoration demonstrated that the actin cone is made up of two regions: a dense meshwork at the front and parallel bundles at the rear. The majority of the actin filaments were oriented with their pointed ends facing in the direction of cone movement. Our data also demonstrate that myosin VI binds to the cone front using its motor domain. Fluorescence recovery after photobleach experiments using green fluorescent protein-myosin VI revealed that myosin VI remains bound to F-actin for minutes, suggesting its role is tethering, rather than transporting cargo. We hypothesize that myosin VI protects the actin cone structure either by cross-linking actin filaments or anchoring regulatory molecules at the cone front. These observations uncover a novel mechanism mediated by myosin VI for stabilizing long-lived actin structures in cells.
PMCID: PMC1474903  PMID: 16571671
21.  Fission yeast tropomyosin specifies directed transport of myosin-V along actin cables 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(1):66-75.
Fission yeast tropomyosin targets myosin-V to actin cables by favoring processivity of the motor. Live-cell imaging is used to estimate the number of myosin-V molecules per motile particle in vivo. In vitro reconstitution demonstrates the physiological relevance of tropomyosin-based targeting of this motor.
A hallmark of class-V myosins is their processivity—the ability to take multiple steps along actin filaments without dissociating. Our previous work suggested, however, that the fission yeast myosin-V (Myo52p) is a nonprocessive motor whose activity is enhanced by tropomyosin (Cdc8p). Here we investigate the molecular mechanism and physiological relevance of tropomyosin-mediated regulation of Myo52p transport, using a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches. Single molecules of Myo52p, visualized by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, moved processively only when Cdc8p was present on actin filaments. Small ensembles of Myo52p bound to a quantum dot, mimicking the number of motors bound to physiological cargo, also required Cdc8p for continuous motion. Although a truncated form of Myo52p that lacked a cargo-binding domain failed to support function in vivo, it still underwent actin-dependent movement to polarized growth sites. This result suggests that truncated Myo52p lacking cargo, or single molecules of wild-type Myo52p with small cargoes, can undergo processive movement along actin-Cdc8p cables in vivo. Our findings outline a mechanism by which tropomyosin facilitates sorting of transport to specific actin tracks within the cell by switching on myosin processivity.
PMCID: PMC3873894  PMID: 24196839
22.  Myosins VIII and XI Play Distinct Roles in Reproduction and Transport of Tobacco Mosaic Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004448.
Viruses are obligatory parasites that depend on host cellular factors for their replication as well as for their local and systemic movement to establish infection. Although myosin motors are thought to contribute to plant virus infection, their exact roles in the specific infection steps have not been addressed. Here we investigated the replication, cell-to-cell and systemic spread of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) using dominant negative inhibition of myosin activity. We found that interference with the functions of three class VIII myosins and two class XI myosins significantly reduced the local and long-distance transport of the virus. We further determined that the inactivation of myosins XI-2 and XI-K affected the structure and dynamic behavior of the ER leading to aggregation of the viral movement protein (MP) and to a delay in the MP accumulation in plasmodesmata (PD). The inactivation of myosin XI-2 but not of myosin XI-K affected the localization pattern of the 126k replicase subunit and the level of TMV accumulation. The inhibition of myosins VIII-1, VIII-2 and VIII-B abolished MP localization to PD and caused its retention at the plasma membrane. These results suggest that class XI myosins contribute to the viral propagation and intracellular trafficking, whereas myosins VIII are specifically required for the MP targeting to and virus movement through the PD. Thus, TMV appears to recruit distinct myosins for different steps in the cell-to-cell spread of the infection.
Author Summary
Viruses are parasites that require the host cell machinery for their propagation within and between cells. Myosins are molecular motors involved in the trafficking of cargos along actin filaments. Plant viruses have evolved to borrow this transport mechanism to aid their infection and spread within the plant. However, little is known about which of the many plant myosins are essential and at which specific steps they act to support virus infection. Here we investigated the role of different N. benthamiana myosins during the infection by Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). Our results show that class XI myosins play specific roles in the reproduction and intracellular movement of TMV in association with the dynamic endoplasmic reticulum network, whereas class VIII myosins support the specific targeting of the viral movement protein to plasmodesmata and thus the cell-to-cell movement of the virus. Together these results indicate that TMV interacts with distinct myosins during specific infection steps.
PMCID: PMC4199776  PMID: 25329993
23.  Sarcomeric Pattern Formation by Actin Cluster Coalescence 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(6):e1002544.
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.
Author Summary
Muscle contraction driving voluntary movements and the beating of the heart relies on the contraction of highly regular bundles of actin and myosin filaments, which share a periodic, sarcomeric pattern. We know little about the mechanisms by which these ‘biological crystals’ are assembled and it is a general question how order on a scale of 100 micrometers can emerge from the interactions of micrometer-sized building blocks, such as actin and myosin filaments. In our paper, we consider a computational model for a bundle of actin filaments and discuss physical mechanisms by which periodic order emerges spontaneously. Mutual crosslinking of actin filaments results in the formation and coalescence of growing actin clusters. Active elongation and shrinkage dynamics of actin filaments generates polymerization forces and causes local actin flow that can act like a conveyor belt to sort myosin filaments in place.
PMCID: PMC3369942  PMID: 22685394
24.  Definite Differences between In Vitro Actin-Myosin Sliding and Muscle Contraction as Revealed Using Antibodies to Myosin Head 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e93272.
Muscle contraction results from attachment-detachment cycles between myosin heads extending from myosin filaments and actin filaments. It is generally believed that a myosin head first attaches to actin, undergoes conformational changes to produce force and motion in muscle, and then detaches from actin. Despite extensive studies, the molecular mechanism of myosin head conformational changes still remains to be a matter for debate and speculation. The myosin head consists of catalytic (CAD), converter (CVD) and lever arm (LD) domains. To give information about the role of these domains in the myosin head performance, we have examined the effect of three site-directed antibodies to the myosin head on in vitro ATP-dependent actin-myosin sliding and Ca2+-activated contraction of muscle fibers. Antibody 1, attaching to junctional peptide between 50K and 20K heavy chain segments in the CAD, exhibited appreciable effects neither on in vitro actin-myosin sliding nor muscle fiber contraction. Since antibody 1 covers actin-binding sites of the CAD, one interpretation of this result is that rigor actin-myosin linkage is absent or at most a transient intermediate in physiological actin-myosin cycling. Antibody 2, attaching to reactive lysine residue in the CVD, showed a marked inhibitory effect on in vitro actin-myosin sliding without changing actin-activated myosin head (S1) ATPase activity, while it showed no appreciable effect on muscle contraction. Antibody 3, attaching to two peptides of regulatory light chains in the LD, had no significant effect on in vitro actin-myosin sliding, while it reduced force development in muscle fibers without changing MgATPase activity. The above definite differences in the effect of antibodies 2 and 3 between in vitro actin-myosin sliding and muscle contraction can be explained by difference in experimental conditions; in the former, myosin heads are randomly oriented on a glass surface, while in the latter myosin heads are regularly arranged within filament-lattice structures.
PMCID: PMC4053314  PMID: 24918754
25.  Truncated myosin XI tail fusions inhibit peroxisome, Golgi, and mitochondrial movement in tobacco leaf epidermal cells: a genetic tool for the next generation 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2008;59(9):2499-2512.
Although organelle movement in higher plants is predominantly actin-based, potential roles for the 17 predicted Arabidopsis myosins in motility are only just emerging. It is shown here that two Arabidopsis myosins from class XI, XIE, and XIK, are involved in Golgi, peroxisome, and mitochondrial movement. Expression of dominant negative forms of the myosin lacking the actin binding domain at the amino terminus perturb organelle motility, but do not completely inhibit movement. Latrunculin B, an actin destabilizing drug, inhibits organelle movement to a greater extent compared to the effects of AtXIE-T/XIK-T expression. Amino terminal YFP fusions to XIE-T and XIK-T are dispersed throughout the cytosol and do not completely decorate the organelles whose motility they affect. XIE-T and XIK-T do not affect the global actin architecture, but their movement and location is actin-dependent. The potential role of these truncated myosins as genetically encoded inhibitors of organelle movement is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2423659  PMID: 18503043
Golgi; mitochondria; motility; myosin; peroxisome

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