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1.  The Interaction of Vinculin with Actin 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(4):e1002995.
Vinculin can interact with F-actin both in recruitment of actin filaments to the growing focal adhesions and also in capping of actin filaments to regulate actin dynamics. Using molecular dynamics, both interactions are simulated using different vinculin conformations. Vinculin is simulated either with only its vinculin tail domain (Vt), with all residues in its closed conformation, with all residues in an open I conformation, and with all residues in an open II conformation. The open I conformation results from movement of domain 1 away from Vt; the open II conformation results from complete dissociation of Vt from the vinculin head domains. Simulation of vinculin binding along the actin filament showed that Vt alone can bind along the actin filaments, that vinculin in its closed conformation cannot bind along the actin filaments, and that vinculin in its open I conformation can bind along the actin filaments. The simulations confirm that movement of domain 1 away from Vt in formation of vinculin 1 is sufficient for allowing Vt to bind along the actin filament. Simulation of Vt capping actin filaments probe six possible bound structures and suggest that vinculin would cap actin filaments by interacting with both S1 and S3 of the barbed-end, using the surface of Vt normally occluded by D4 and nearby vinculin head domain residues. Simulation of D4 separation from Vt after D1 separation formed the open II conformation. Binding of open II vinculin to the barbed-end suggests this conformation allows for vinculin capping. Three binding sites on F-actin are suggested as regions that could link to vinculin. Vinculin is suggested to function as a variable switch at the focal adhesions. The conformation of vinculin and the precise F-actin binding conformation is dependent on the level of mechanical load on the focal adhesion.
Author Summary
The interface between a cell and its substrate is strengthened by the formation of focal adhesions. In this study molecular dynamics simulations are used to explore the connectivity of one focal adhesion forming protein, vinculin, and the cytoskeletal filament, F-actin. The simulations demonstrate: (1) that vinculin can link along F-actin at these focal adhesions when it adopts an open conformation, (2) that the vinculin tail (Vt) can bind F-actin at its barbed-end preventing actin polymerization, (3) that vinculin can adopt two open conformations, and (4) that the second open conformation is necessary for vinculin to cap the actin filament. The results suggest that vinculin can act as a variable switch, changing its shape and the nature of its interaction with F-actin depending on the level of stress seen at a focal adhesion. Under the highest stress vinculin would adopt the open II conformation and link anywhere on F-actin, even its barbed-end. Under less stress vinculin could adopt the open I conformation and bind along F-actin. And under minimal stress vinculin could adopt its closed conformation. This variability allows for vinculin to truly function as the cell's mechanical reinforcing agent.
PMCID: PMC3635976  PMID: 23633939
2.  Structural Dynamics of α-Actinin-Vinculin Interactions†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(14):6112-6122.
α-Actinin and vinculin orchestrate reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton following the formation of adhesion junctions. α-Actinin interacts with vinculin through the binding of an α-helix (αVBS) present within the R4 spectrin repeat of its central rod domain to vinculin's N-terminal seven-helical bundle domain (Vh1). The Vh1:αVBS structure suggests that αVBS first unravels from its buried location in the triple-helical R4 repeat to allow it to bind to vinculin. αVBS binding then induces novel conformational changes in the N-terminal helical bundle of Vh1, which disrupt its intramolecular association with vinculin's tail domain and which differ from the alterations in Vh1 provoked by the binding of talin. Surprisingly, αVBS binds to Vh1 in an inverted orientation compared to the binding of talin's VBSs to vinculin. Importantly, the binding of αVBS and talin's VBSs to vinculin's Vh1 domain appear to also trigger distinct conformational changes in full-length vinculin, opening up distant regions that are buried in the inactive molecule. The data suggest a model where vinculin's Vh1 domain acts as a molecular switch that undergoes distinct structural changes provoked by talin and α-actinin binding in focal adhesions versus adherens junctions, respectively.
PMCID: PMC1168820  PMID: 15988023
3.  The cytoplasmic domain of L-selectin interacts with cytoskeletal proteins via alpha-actinin: receptor positioning in microvilli does not require interaction with alpha-actinin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1995;129(4):1155-1164.
The leukocyte adhesion molecule L-selectin mediates binding to lymph node high endothelial venules (HEV) and contributes to leukocyte rolling on endothelium at sites of inflammation. Previously, it was shown that truncation of the L-selectin cytoplasmic tail by 11 amino acids abolished binding to lymph node HEV and leukocyte rolling in vivo, but the molecular basis for that observation was not determined. This study examined potential interactions between L-selectin and cytoskeletal proteins. We found that the cytoplasmic domain of L- selectin interacts directly with the cytoplasmic actin-binding protein alpha-actinin and forms a complex with vinculin and possibly talin. Solid phase binding assays using the full-length L-selectin cytoplasmic domain bound to microtiter wells demonstrated direct, specific, and saturable binding of purified alpha-actinin to L-selectin (Kd = 550 nM), but no direct binding of purified talin or vinculin. Interestingly, talin potentiated binding of alpha-actinin to the L- selectin cytoplasmic domain peptide despite the fact that direct binding of talin to L-selectin could not be measured. Vinculin binding to the L-selectin cytoplasmic domain peptide was detectable only in the presence of alpha-actinin. L-selectin coprecipitated with a complex of cytoskeletal proteins including alpha-actinin and vinculin from cells transfected with L-selectin, consistent with the possibility that alpha- actinin binds directly to L-selectin and that vinculin associates by binding to alpha-actinin in vivo to link actin filaments to the L- selectin cytoplasmic domain. In contrast, a deletion mutant of L- selectin lacking the COOH-terminal 11 amino acids of the cytoplasmic domain failed to coprecipitate with alpha-actinin or vinculin. Surprisingly, this mutant L-selectin localized normally to the microvillar projections on the cell surface. These data suggest that the COOH-terminal 11 amino acids of the L-selectin cytoplasmic domain are required for mediating interactions with the actin cytoskeleton via a complex of alpha-actinin and vinculin, but that this portion of the cytoplasmic domain is not necessary for proper localization of L- selectin on the cell surface. Correct L-selectin receptor positioning is therefore insufficient for leukocyte adhesion mediated by L- selectin, suggesting that this adhesion may also require direct interactions with the cytoskeleton.
PMCID: PMC2120488  PMID: 7538138
4.  Molecular Mechanics of the α-Actinin Rod Domain: Bending, Torsional, and Extensional Behavior 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(5):e1000389.
α-Actinin is an actin crosslinking molecule that can serve as a scaffold and maintain dynamic actin filament networks. As a crosslinker in the stressed cytoskeleton, α-actinin can retain conformation, function, and strength. α-Actinin has an actin binding domain and a calmodulin homology domain separated by a long rod domain. Using molecular dynamics and normal mode analysis, we suggest that the α-actinin rod domain has flexible terminal regions which can twist and extend under mechanical stress, yet has a highly rigid interior region stabilized by aromatic packing within each spectrin repeat, by electrostatic interactions between the spectrin repeats, and by strong salt bridges between its two anti-parallel monomers. By exploring the natural vibrations of the α-actinin rod domain and by conducting bending molecular dynamics simulations we also predict that bending of the rod domain is possible with minimal force. We introduce computational methods for analyzing the torsional strain of molecules using rotating constraints. Molecular dynamics extension of the α-actinin rod is also performed, demonstrating transduction of the unfolding forces across salt bridges to the associated monomer of the α-actinin rod domain.
Author Summary
The cell interacts with its environment in both biochemical and mechanical ways. In this study we explore one of the ways in which the cell interacts mechanically with its environment. α-Actinin is a cytoskeletal crosslinker: it functions to scaffold the cytoskeletal actin filaments that provide mechanical reinforcement to the cell. In its functional environment α-actinin is exposed to a multitude of mechanical stresses as it attaches itself to a dynamic network of actin filaments. The actin filaments extend, rotate, and bend the α-actinin crosslinkers. In this study we employ molecular dynamics techniques to understand the structural characteristics of α-actinin that underlie its ability to provide a scaffold in such a stressed environment. We analyzed the natural frequencies of α-actinin and simulated force-induced bending, extension, and twisting. Our results suggest that α-actinin has structural flexibility facilitating crosslinking in a dynamic environment and also structural rigidity stabilizing the linkage in the stressed environment. We have discovered novel natural bending movements of the rod domain that enhance its function as a crosslinker. We have also demonstrated the specific structural characteristics of α-actinin that give it the previously suggested property of having partial flexibility. Our results enhance the understanding of structural mechanics in the cytoskeletal molecules.
PMCID: PMC2676514  PMID: 19436721
5.  Reorganization of alpha-actinin and vinculin induced by a phorbol ester in living cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1986;102(4):1430-1438.
We have used fluorescent analogue cytochemistry, image intensification, and digital image processing to examine the redistribution of alpha- actinin and vinculin in living cultured African green monkey kidney (BSC-1) cells treated with the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol- 13-acetate (TPA). Before treatment, microinjected alpha-actinin shows characteristic distribution along stress fibers and at adhesion plaques; vinculin is localized predominantly at adhesion plaques. Soon after the addition of TPA, highly dynamic membrane ruffles begin to form. These incorporate a large amount of alpha-actinin but little vinculin. Alpha-actinin is subsequently depleted, more or less uniformly, from stress fibers. Disrupted stress fibers often fragment into aggregates and move into the perinuclear region. Careful analyses of fluorescence intensity distribution indicate that alpha-actinin is depleted more rapidly from adhesion plaques than from stress fibers. Furthermore, the depletion of alpha-actinin from adhesion plaques is also faster than either the depletion of vinculin or the disappearance of focal contacts. These observations indicate that TPA may initiate disruption of stress fibers by interfering with a link between alpha- actinin and vinculin, causing alpha-actinin to be preferentially depleted from adhesion plaques.
PMCID: PMC2114182  PMID: 3082892
6.  Immunoelectron microscopic studies of the sites of cell-substratum and cell-cell contacts in cultured fibroblasts 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1982;95(1):205-222.
Our object was to obtain information about the molecular structures present at cell-substratum and cell-cell contact sites formed by cultured fibroblasts. We have carried out double immunoelectron- microscopic labeling experiments on ultrathin frozen sections cut through such contact sites to determine the absolute and relative dispositions of the three proteins fibronectin, vinculin, and alpha- actinin with respect to these sites. (a) Three types of cell-substratum and cell-cell contact sites familiar from plastic sections could also be discriminated in the frozen sections by morphological criteria alone, i.e., the gap distances between the two surfaces, and the presence of submembranous densities. These types were: (i) focal adhesions (FA); (ii) close contacts (CC); and (iii) extracellular matrix contacts (ECM). This morphological typing of the contact sites allowed us to recognize and assign distinctive immunolabeling patterns for the three proteins to each type of site on the frozen sections. (b) FA sites were immunolabeled intracellularly for vinculin and alpha- actinin, with vinculin labeling situated closer to the membrane than alpha-actinin. Fibronectin was not labeled in the narrow gap between the cell surface and the substratum, or between two cells, at FA sites. Control experiments showed that this could not be ascribed to inaccessibility of the FA narrow gap to the immunolabeling reagents but indicated an absence or severe depletion of fibronectin from these sites. (c) CC sites were labeled intracellularly for alpha-actinin but not vinculin and were labeled extracellularly for fibronectin. (d) ECM sites were characterized by large separations (often greater than 100 nm) between the cell and substratum or between two cells, which were connected by long cables of extracellular matrix components, including fibronectin. In late (24-36 h) cultures, ECM contacts predominated over the other types. ECM sites appeared to be of two kinds, one labeled intracellularly for both alpha-actinin and vinculin, the other for alpha-actinin alone. (e) From these and other results, a coherent but tentative scheme is proposed for the molecular ultrastructure of these contacts sites, and specific functional roles are suggested for fibronectin, vinculin, and alpha-actinin in cell adhesion and in the linkage of intracellular microfilaments to membranes at the different types of contact sites.
PMCID: PMC2112341  PMID: 6815205
7.  Immunolocalization of meta-vinculin in human smooth and cardiac muscles 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1988;107(2):545-553.
Meta-vinculin, a vinculin-related protein, has been isolated from human uterus smooth muscle. Specific antibodies to meta-vinculin, which distinguish between meta-vinculin and vinculin, were prepared by absorption of anti-meta-vinculin serum on vinculin coupled to nitrocellulose. Meta-vinculin specific antibody demonstrates only smooth and cardiac muscle specificity and is able to cross-react with a small 21-kD fragment of the meta-vinculin polypeptide chain. This antibody does not interact with protease resistant 95-kD core shared by vinculin and meta-vinculin. Meta-vinculin specific antibody was used for the localization of meta-vinculin in smooth and cardiac muscles by the indirect immunofluorescence method. At the light microscopy resolution level it was found that meta-vinculin and vinculin are localized in the same cellular adhesive structures. Meta-vinculin is present in membrane-associated microfilament-bound plaques of smooth muscle, in intercalated discs and costameres of cardiac muscle. In primary culture of smooth muscle cells from human aorta, meta-vinculin and vinculin were found to be present in focal contacts of the cells. During the cultivation of smooth muscle cells, the quantity of meta- vinculin decreased progressively and finally meta-vinculin completely disappeared from the focal contacts. The data show that in smooth and cardiac muscles meta-vinculin could be a structural component of microfilament-membrane attachment sites, defined earlier by the localization of vinculin.
PMCID: PMC2115213  PMID: 3138246
8.  Vinculin controls focal adhesion formation by direct interactions with talin and actin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;179(5):1043-1057.
Focal adhesions (FAs) regulate cell migration. Vinculin, with its many potential binding partners, can interconnect signals in FAs. Despite the well-characterized structure of vinculin, the molecular mechanisms underlying its action have remained unclear. Here, using vinculin mutants, we separate the vinculin head and tail regions into distinct functional domains. We show that the vinculin head regulates integrin dynamics and clustering and the tail regulates the link to the mechanotransduction force machinery. The expression of vinculin constructs with unmasked binding sites in the head and tail regions induces dramatic FA growth, which is mediated by their direct interaction with talin. This interaction leads to clustering of activated integrin and an increase in integrin residency time in FAs. Surprisingly, paxillin recruitment, induced by active vinculin constructs, occurs independently of its potential binding site in the vinculin tail. The vinculin tail, however, is responsible for the functional link of FAs to the actin cytoskeleton. We propose a new model that explains how vinculin orchestrates FAs.
PMCID: PMC2099183  PMID: 18056416
9.  Synthetic peptide GRGDS induces dissociation of alpha-actinin and vinculin from the sites of focal contacts 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1988;107(3):1231-1239.
The synthetic peptide Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (GRGDS) mimics the cellular binding site of many adhesive proteins in the extracellular matrix and causes rounding and detachment of spread cells. We have studied whether its binding affects the associations of two major components, alpha- actinin and vinculin, at the adhesion plaque. Living 3T3 cells were microinjected with fluorescently labeled alpha-actinin and/or vinculin and observed using video microscopy before and after the addition of 50 micrograms/ml GRGDS. As soon as 5 min after treatment, fluorescent alpha-actinin and vinculin became dissociated simultaneously from the sites of many focal contacts. The proteins either moved away as discrete structures or dispersed from adhesion plaques. As a result, the enrichment of alpha-actinin and vinculin at these focal contacts was no longer detected. The focal contacts then faded away slowly without showing detectable movement. These data suggest that the binding state of integrin has a transmembrane effect on the distribution of cytoskeletal components. The dissociation of alpha- actinin and vinculin from adhesion plaques may in turn weaken the contacts and result in rounding and detachment of cells.
PMCID: PMC2115299  PMID: 3138248
10.  CAS directly interacts with vinculin to control mechanosensing and focal adhesion dynamics 
Focal adhesions are cellular structures through which both mechanical forces and regulatory signals are transmitted. Two focal adhesion-associated proteins, Crk-associated substrate (CAS) and vinculin, were both independently shown to be crucial for the ability of cells to transmit mechanical forces and to regulate cytoskeletal tension. Here, we identify a novel, direct binding interaction between CAS and vinculin. This interaction is mediated by the CAS SRC homology 3 domain and a proline-rich sequence in the hinge region of vinculin. We show that CAS localization in focal adhesions is partially dependent on vinculin, and that CAS–vinculin coupling is required for stretch-induced activation of CAS at the Y410 phosphorylation site. Moreover, CAS–vinculin binding significantly affects the dynamics of CAS and vinculin within focal adhesions as well as the size of focal adhesions. Finally, disruption of CAS binding to vinculin reduces cell stiffness and traction force generation. Taken together, these findings strongly implicate a crucial role of CAS–vinculin interaction in mechanosensing and focal adhesion dynamics.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00018-013-1450-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3901934  PMID: 23974298
CAS; Focal adhesions; Mechanosensing; Vinculin; Src; Traction forces
11.  Cytoplasmic Tail Regulates the Intercellular Adhesion Function of the Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(8):4833-4843.
Ep-CAM, an epithelium-specific cell-cell adhesion molecule (CAM) not structurally related to the major families of CAMs, contains a cytoplasmic domain of 26 amino acids. The chemical disruption of the actin microfilaments, but not of the microtubuli or intermediate filaments, affected the localization of Ep-CAM at the cell-cell boundaries, suggesting that the molecule interacts with the actin-based cytoskeleton. Mutated forms of Ep-CAM were generated with the cytoplasmic domain truncated at various lengths. All of the mutants were transported to the cell surface in the transfectants; however, the mutant lacking the complete cytoplasmic domain was not able to localize to the cell-cell boundaries, in contrast to mutants with partial deletions. Both the disruption of the actin microfilaments and a complete truncation of the cytoplasmic tail strongly affected the ability of Ep-CAM to mediate aggregation of L cells. The capability of direct aggregation was reduced for the partially truncated mutants but remained cytochalasin D sensitive. The tail truncation did not affect the ability of the transfectants to adhere to solid-phase-adsorbed Ep-CAM, suggesting that the ability to form stable adhesions and not the ligand specificity of the molecule was affected by the truncation. The formation of intercellular adhesions mediated by Ep-CAM induced a redistribution to the cell-cell boundaries of α-actinin, but not of vinculin, talin, filamin, spectrin, or catenins. Coprecipitation demonstrated direct association of Ep-CAM with α-actinin. Binding of α-actinin to purified mutated and wild-type Ep-CAMs and to peptides representing different domains of the cytoplasmic tail of Ep-CAM demonstrates two binding sites for α-actinin at positions 289 to 296 and 304 to 314 of the amino acid sequence. The results demonstrate that the cytoplasmic domain of Ep-CAM regulates the adhesion function of the molecule through interaction with the actin cytoskeleton via α-actinin.
PMCID: PMC109068  PMID: 9671492
12.  Organization of pp60src and selected cytoskeletal proteins within adhesion plaques and junctions of Rous sarcoma virus-transformed rat cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1981;89(3):525-535.
The localization of pp60src within adhesion structures of epithelioid rat kidney cells transformed by the Schmidt-Ruppin strain of Rous sarcoma virus was compared to the organization of actin, alpha-actinin, vinculin (a 130,000-dalton protein), tubulin, and the 58,000-dalton intermediate filament protein. The adhesion structures included both adhesion plaques and previously uncharacterized adhesive regions formed at cell-cell junctions. We have termed these latter structures "adhesion junctions." Both adhesion plaques and adhesion junctions were identified by interference-reflection microscopy and compared to the location of pp60src and the various cytoskeletal proteins by double fluorescence. The results demonstrated that the src gene product was found within both adhesion plaques and the adhesion junctions. In addition, actin, alpha-actinin, and vinculin were also localized within the same pp60src-containing adhesion structures. In contrast, tubulin and the 58,000-dalton intermediate filament protein were not associated with either adhesion plaques or adhesion junctions. Both adhesion plaques and adhesion junctions were isolated as substratum-bound structures and characterized by scanning electron microscopy. Immunofluorescence revealed that pp60src, actin, alpha-actinin, and vinculin were organized within specific regions of the adhesion junctions. Heavy accumulations of actin and alpha-actinin were found on both sides of the junctions with a narrow gap of unstained material at the midline, whereas pp60src stain was more intense in this central region. Antibody to vinculin stained double narrow lines defining the periphery of the junctional complexes but was excluded from the intervening region. In addition, the distribution of vinculin relative to pp60src within adhesion plaques suggested an inverse relationship between the presence of these two proteins. Overall, these results establish a close link between the src gene product and components of the cytoskeleton and implicate the adhesion plaques and adhesion junctions in the mechanism of Rous sarcoma virus-induced transformation.
PMCID: PMC2111810  PMID: 6265469
13.  The Vinculin-ΔIn20/21 Mouse: Characteristics of a Constitutive, Actin-Binding Deficient Splice Variant of Vinculin 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11530.
The cytoskeletal adaptor protein vinculin plays a fundamental role in cell contact regulation and affects central aspects of cell motility, which are essential to both embryonal development and tissue homeostasis. Functional regulation of this evolutionarily conserved and ubiquitously expressed protein is dominated by a high-affinity, autoinhibitory head-to-tail interaction that spatially restricts ligand interactions to cell adhesion sites and, furthermore, limits the residency time of vinculin at these sites. To date, no mutants of the vinculin protein have been characterized in animal models.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we investigate vinculin-ΔEx20, a splice variant of the protein lacking the 68 amino acids encoded by exon 20 of the vinculin gene VCL. Vinculin-ΔEx20 was found to be expressed alongside with wild type protein in a knock-in mouse model with a deletion of introns 20 and 21 (VCL-ΔIn20/21 allele) and shows defective head-to-tail interaction. Homozygous VCL-ΔIn20/21 embryos die around embryonal day E12.5 showing cranial neural tube defects and exencephaly. In mouse embryonic fibroblasts and upon ectopic expression, vinculin-ΔEx20 reveals characteristics of constitutive head binding activity. Interestingly, the impact of vinculin-ΔEx20 on cell contact induction and stabilization, a hallmark of the vinculin head domain, is only moderate, thus allowing invasion and motility of cells in three-dimensional collagen matrices. Lacking both F-actin interaction sites of the tail, the vinculin-ΔEx20 variant unveils vinculin's dynamic binding to cell adhesions independent of a cytoskeletal association, and thus differs from head-to-tail binding deficient mutants such as vinculin-T12, in which activated F-actin binding locks the protein variant to cell contact sites.
Vinculin-ΔEx20 is an active variant supporting adhesion site stabilization without an enhanced mechanical coupling. Its presence in a transgenic animal reveals the potential of splice variants in the vinculin gene to alter vinculin function in vivo. Correct control of vinculin is necessary for embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC2904371  PMID: 20644727
14.  Substrate Stiffness affects Sarcomere and Costamere Structure and Electrophysiological Function of Isolated Adult Cardiomyocytes 
The mechanical environment is a key regulator of function in cardiomyocytes. We studied the role of substrate stiffness on the organization of sarcomeres and costameres in adult rat cardiomyocytes, and further examined the resulting changes in cell shortening and calcium dynamics.
Cardiomyocytes isolated from adult rats were plated on laminin-coated polydimethylsiloxane substrates of defined stiffness (255 kPa, 117 kPa, 27 kPa, and 7 kPa) for 48 h. Levels of α-actinin and β1 integrins were determined by immunofluoresence imaging and immunoblotting, both in the absence and presence of the phosphatase inhibitor calyculin A. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure message levels of key structural proteins (α-actinin, α7 integrin, β1 integrin, vinculin). Sarcomere shortening and calcium dynamics were measured at 2, 24, and 48 hours.
Overall cardiomyocyte morphology was similar on all substrates. However, well organized sarcomere structures were observed on only the stiffest (255 kPa) and the most compliant (7 kPa) substrates. Levels of α-actinin in cells were the same on all substrates, while message levels of structural proteins were upregulated on substrates of intermediate stiffness. Inhibition of phosphatase activity blocked the degradation of contractile structures, but altered overall cardiomyocyte morphology. Shortening and calcium dynamics also were dependent on substrate stiffness, however there was no clear causative relationship between the phenomena.
Extracellular matrix stiffness can affect structural remodeling by adult cardiomyocytes, and the resulting contractile activity. These findings illuminate changes in cardiomyocyte function in cardiac fibrosis, and may suggest cardiac-specific phosphatases as a target for therapeutic intervention
PMCID: PMC3610795  PMID: 23266222
adult cardiomyocyte; substrate stiffness; fibrosis; sarcomere; costamere
15.  Dynamic regulation of endothelial NOS mediated by competitive interaction with α-actinin-4 and calmodulin 
Alpha-actinins are critical components of the actin cytoskeleton. Here we show that α-actinins serve an­other important biological function by binding to and com­petitively inhibiting calcium-dependent activation of endo­thelial NOS (eNOS). α-actinin-2 was found to associate with eNOS in a yeast two-hybrid screen. In vascular endothelial cells, which only express α-actinin-1 and -4, α-actinin-4 inter­acted and colocalized with eNOS. Addition of α-actinin-4 directly inhibited eNOS recombinant protein, and overexpression of α-actinin-4 inhibited eNOS activity in eNOS-transfected COS-7 cells and bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs). In contrast, knockdown of α-actinin-4 by siRNA increased eNOS activity in BAECs. The α-actinin-4-binding site on eNOS was mapped to a central region comprising the calmodulin-binding domain, and the eNOS-binding site on α-actinin-4 was mapped to the fourth spectrin-like rod do­main, R4. Treatment of endothelial cells with a calcium ionophore, A23187, decreased α-actinin-4-eNOS interaction, leading to translocation of α-actinin-4 from plasma mem­brane to cytoplasm. Indeed, addition of calmodulin dis­placed α-actinin-4 binding to eNOS and increased eNOS activity. These findings indicate that eNOS activity in vascu­lar endothelial cells is tonically and dynamically regulated by competitive interaction with α-actinin-4 and calmodulin.
PMCID: PMC2515824  PMID: 18180332
endothelium; nitric oxide; ionophore
16.  Structures linking microfilament bundles to the membrane at focal contacts 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1993;122(2):485-496.
We used quick-freeze, deep-etch, rotary replication and immunogold cytochemistry to identify a new structure at focal contacts. In Xenopus fibroblasts, elongated aggregates of particles project from the membrane to contact bundles of actin microfilaments. Before terminating, a single bundle of microfilaments interacts with several aggregates that appear intermittently over a distance of several microns. Aggregates are enriched in proteins believed to mediate actin- membrane interactions at focal contacts, including beta 1-integrin, vinculin, and talin, but they appear to contain less alpha-actinin and filamin. We also identified a second, smaller class of aggregates of membrane particles that contained beta 1-integrin but not vinculin or talin and that were not associated with actin microfilaments. Our results indicate that vinculin, talin, and beta 1-integrin are assembled into distinctive structures that mediate multiple lateral interactions between microfilaments and the membrane at focal contacts.
PMCID: PMC2119644  PMID: 7686554
17.  ZYX-1, the unique zyxin protein of Caenorhabditis elegans, is involved in dystrophin-dependent muscle degeneration 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(8):1232-1249.
The LIM-domain protein ZYX-1 is the unique zyxin-like protein in Caenorhabditis elegans. In striated body-wall muscles, ZYX-1 localizes at dense bodies/Z-discs and M-lines, as well as in the nucleus, and its localization is highly dynamic. ZYX-1 plays an unexpected role in dystrophin-dependent muscle degeneration.
In vertebrates, zyxin is a LIM-domain protein belonging to a family composed of seven members. We show that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has a unique zyxin-like protein, ZYX-1, which is the orthologue of the vertebrate zyxin subfamily composed of zyxin, migfilin, TRIP6, and LPP. The ZYX-1 protein is expressed in the striated body-wall muscles and localizes at dense bodies/Z-discs and M-lines, as well as in the nucleus. In yeast two-hybrid assays ZYX-1 interacts with several known dense body and M-line proteins, including DEB-1 (vinculin) and ATN-1 (α-actinin). ZYX-1 is mainly localized in the middle region of the dense body/Z-disk, overlapping the apical and basal regions containing, respectively, ATN-1 and DEB-1. The localization and dynamics of ZYX-1 at dense bodies depend on the presence of ATN-1. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments revealed a high mobility of the ZYX-1 protein within muscle cells, in particular at dense bodies and M-lines, indicating a peripheral and dynamic association of ZYX-1 at these muscle adhesion structures. A portion of the ZYX-1 protein shuttles from the cytoplasm into the nucleus, suggesting a role for ZYX-1 in signal transduction. We provide evidence that the zyx-1 gene encodes two different isoforms, ZYX-1a and ZYX-1b, which exhibit different roles in dystrophin-dependent muscle degeneration occurring in a C. elegans model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3623643  PMID: 23427270
18.  Dynamic interaction of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 with moesin and ezrin in a novel endothelial docking structure for adherent leukocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2002;157(7):1233-1245.
Ezrin, radixin, and moesin (ERM) regulate cortical morphogenesis and cell adhesion by connecting membrane adhesion receptors to the actin-based cytoskeleton. We have studied the interaction of moesin and ezrin with the vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 during leukocyte adhesion and transendothelial migration (TEM). VCAM-1 interacted directly with moesin and ezrin in vitro, and all of these molecules colocalized at the apical surface of endothelium. Dynamic assessment of this interaction in living cells showed that both VCAM-1 and moesin were involved in lymphoblast adhesion and spreading on the endothelium, whereas only moesin participated in TEM, following the same distribution pattern as ICAM-1. During leukocyte adhesion in static or under flow conditions, VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and activated moesin and ezrin clustered in an endothelial actin-rich docking structure that anchored and partially embraced the leukocyte containing other cytoskeletal components such as α-actinin, vinculin, and VASP. Phosphoinositides and the Rho/p160 ROCK pathway, which participate in the activation of ERM proteins, were involved in the generation and maintenance of the anchoring structure. These results provide the first characterization of an endothelial docking structure that plays a key role in the firm adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium during inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2173557  PMID: 12082081
ERM; VCAM-1; ICAM-1; leukocyte adhesion and transendothelial migration; docking structure
19.  Isoform-Specific Contributions of α-Actinin to Glioma Cell Mechanobiology 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8427.
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is a malignant astrocytic tumor associated with low survival rates because of aggressive infiltration of tumor cells into the brain parenchyma. Expression of the actin binding protein α-actinin has been strongly correlated with the invasive phenotype of GBM in vivo. To probe the cellular basis of this correlation, we have suppressed expression of the nonmuscle isoforms α-actinin-1 and α-actinin-4 and examined the contribution of each isoform to the structure, mechanics, and motility of human glioma tumor cells in culture. While subcellular localization of each isoform is distinct, suppression of either isoform yields a phenotype that includes dramatically reduced motility, compensatory upregulation and redistribution of vinculin, reduced cortical elasticity, and reduced ability to adapt to changes in the elasticity of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Mechanistic studies reveal a relationship between α-actinin and non-muscle myosin II in which depletion of either α-actinin isoform reduces myosin expression and maximal cell-ECM tractional forces. Our results demonstrate that both α-actinin-1 and α-actinin-4 make critical and distinct contributions to cytoskeletal organization, rigidity-sensing, and motility of glioma cells, thereby yielding mechanistic insight into the observed correlation between α-actinin expression and GBM invasiveness in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2793025  PMID: 20037648
20.  Differential response of myofibrillar and cytoskeletal proteins in cells treated with phorbol myristate acetate 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1989;108(3):1079-1091.
Muscle-specific and nonmuscle contractile protein isoforms responded in opposite ways to 12-o-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Loss of Z band density was observed in day-4-5 cultured chick myotubes after 2 h in the phorbol ester, TPA. By 5-10 h, most I-Z-I complexes were selectively deleted from the myofibril, although the A bands remained intact and longitudinally aligned. The deletion of I-Z-I complexes was inversely related to the appearance of numerous cortical, alpha-actinin containing bodies (CABs), transitory structures approximately 3.0 microns in diameter. Each CAB consisted of a filamentous core that costained with antibodies to alpha-actin and sarcomeric alpha-actinin. In turn each CAB was encaged by a discontinuous rim that costained with antibodies to vinculin and talin. Vimentin and desmin intermediate filaments and most cell organelles were excluded from the membrane-free CABs. These curious bodies disappeared over the next 10 h so that in 30- h myosacs all alpha-actin and sarcomeric alpha-actinin structures had been eliminated. On the other hand vinculin and talin adhesion plaques remained prominent even in 72-h myosacs. Disruption of the A bands was first initiated after 15-20 h in TPA (e.g., 15-20-h myosacs). Thick filaments of apparently normal length and structure were progressively released from A segments, and by 40 h all A bands had been broken down into enormous numbers of randomly dispersed, but still intact single thick filaments. This breakdown correlated with the formation of amorphous cytoplasmic aggregates which invariably colocalized antibodies to myosin heavy chain, MLC 1-3, myomesin, and C protein. Complete elimination of all immunoreactive thick filament proteins required 60-72 h of TPA exposure. The elimination of the thick filament- associated proteins did not involve the participation of vinculin or talin. In contrast to its effects on myofibrils, TPA did not induce the disassembly of the contractile proteins in stress fibers and microfilaments either in myosacs or in fibroblastic cells. Similarly, TPA, which rapidly induces the translocation of vinculin and talin to ectopic sites in many types of immortalized cells, had no gross effect on the adhesion plaques of myosacs, primary fibroblastic cells, or presumptive myoblasts. Clearly, the response to TPA of contractile protein and some cytoskeletal isoforms not only varies among phenotypes, but even within the domains of a given myotube the myofibrils respond one way, the stress fibers/microfilaments another.
PMCID: PMC2115379  PMID: 2493458
21.  How Force Might Activate Talin's Vinculin Binding Sites: SMD Reveals a Structural Mechanism 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(2):e24.
Upon cell adhesion, talin physically couples the cytoskeleton via integrins to the extracellular matrix, and subsequent vinculin recruitment is enhanced by locally applied tensile force. Since the vinculin binding (VB) sites are buried in the talin rod under equilibrium conditions, the structural mechanism of how vinculin binding to talin is force-activated remains unknown. Taken together with experimental data, a biphasic vinculin binding model, as derived from steered molecular dynamics, provides high resolution structural insights how tensile mechanical force applied to the talin rod fragment (residues 486–889 constituting helices H1–H12) might activate the VB sites. Fragmentation of the rod into three helix subbundles is prerequisite to the sequential exposure of VB helices to water. Finally, unfolding of a VB helix into a completely stretched polypeptide might inhibit further binding of vinculin. The first events in fracturing the H1–H12 rods of talin1 and talin2 in subbundles are similar. The proposed force-activated α-helix swapping mechanism by which vinculin binding sites in talin rods are exposed works distinctly different from that of other force-activated bonds, including catch bonds.
Author Summary
For cell survival, most eukaryotic cells need to be mechanically anchored to their environment. This is done by transmembrane proteins, including integrins, which externally bind to the extracellular matrix and on the cell interior to the contractile cytoskeleton via scaffolding proteins. One essential scaffolding protein is talin, which binds to integrins via its head and to the cytoskeletal filament f-actin via its rodlike tail. As cells apply tensile forces to newly formed adhesion sites, proteins that are part of such force-bearing networks get stretched and might change their structure and thus function. One of many proteins that are recruited to newly formed adhesions is vinculin, and vinculin recruitment is upregulated by tensile mechanical force—but how? Since talin's vinculin binding sites are buried in its native structure, we used steered molecular dynamics here to derive a high resolution structural model of how tensile mechanical forces might activate talin's vinculin binding sites. Once tensile forces break up the talin rod into helix subbundles, an event that we find here to constitute the main energy barrier, we propose how the strain-induced gradual exposure of the vinculin-binding helices finally allows for their activation and enables helix swapping with the vinculin head.
PMCID: PMC2242828  PMID: 18282082
22.  α-actinin is Required for Proper Assembly of Z-disk / Focal Adhesion-Like Structures and for Efficient Locomotion in Caenorhabditis elegans 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;403(4):516-528.
The actin binding protein α-actinin is a major component of focal adhesions found in vertebrate cells and of the focal adhesion-like structures found the body wall muscle of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. To study its in vivo function in this genetic model system we isolated a strain carrying a deletion of the single C. elegans α-actinin gene. We assessed the cytological organization of other C. elegans focal adhesion proteins, and the ultrastructure of the mutant. The mutant does not have normal dense bodies by EM but these dense body-like structures still contain the focal adhesion proteins integrin, talin and vinculin by immunofluorescence microscopy. Actin is found in normal-appearing I-bands, but with abnormal accumulations near muscle cell membranes. Although swimming in water appeared grossly normal, use of automated methods for tracking locomotion of individual worms revealed a defect in bending. We propose that the reduced motility of the α-actinin null is due to abnormal dense bodies that are less able to transmit the forces generated by actin/myosin interactions.
PMCID: PMC3440862  PMID: 20850453
α-actinin; focal adhesion; muscle; Caenorhabditis elegans
23.  Restructuring of Focal Adhesion Plaques by Pi 3-Kinase 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;150(3):627-642.
Focal adhesions are an elaborate network of interconnecting proteins linking actin stress fibers to the extracellular matrix substrate. Modulation of the focal adhesion plaque provides a mechanism for the regulation of cellular adhesive strength. Using interference reflection microscopy, we found that activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) by PDGF induces the dissipation of focal adhesions. Loss of this close apposition between the cell membrane and the extracellular matrix coincided with a redistribution of α-actinin and vinculin from the focal adhesion complex to the Triton X-100–soluble fraction. In contrast, talin and paxillin remained localized to focal adhesions, suggesting that activation of PI 3-kinase induced a restructuring of the plaque rather than complete dispersion. Furthermore, phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PtdIns (3,4,5)-P3), a lipid product of PI 3-kinase, was sufficient to induce restructuring of the focal adhesion plaque. We also found that PtdIns (3,4,5)-P3 binds to α-actinin in PDGF-treated cells. Further evidence demonstrated that activation of PI 3-kinase by PDGF induced a decrease in the association of α-actinin with the integrin β subunit, and that PtdIns (3,4,5)-P3 could disrupt this interaction in vitro. Modification of focal adhesion structure by PI 3-kinase and its lipid product, PtdIns (3,4,5)-P3, has important implications for the regulation of cellular adhesive strength and motility.
PMCID: PMC2175186  PMID: 10931873
cell motility; phosphoinositide 3-kinase; PDGF; integrin; vinculin
24.  An interaction between alpha-actinin and the beta 1 integrin subunit in vitro 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1990;111(2):721-729.
A number of cytoskeletal-associated proteins that are concentrated in focal contacts, namely alpha-actinin, vinculin, talin, and integrin, have been shown to interact in vitro such that they suggest a potential link between actin filaments and the membrane. Because some of these interactions are of low affinity, we suspect the additional linkages also exist. Therefore, we have used a synthetic peptide corresponding to the cytoplasmic domain of beta 1 integrin and affinity chromatography to identify additional integrin-binding proteins. Here we report our finding of an interaction between the cytoplasmic domain of beta 1 integrin and the actin-binding protein alpha-actinin. Beta 1- integrin cytoplasmic domain peptide columns bound several proteins from Triton extracts of chicken embryo fibroblasts. One protein at approximately 100 kD was identified by immunoblot analysis as alpha- actinin. Solid phase binding assays indicated that alpha-actinin bound specifically and directly to the beta 1 peptide with relatively high affinity. Using purified heterodimeric chicken smooth muscle integrin (a beta 1 integrin) or the platelet integrin glycoprotein IIb/IIIa complex (a beta 3 integrin), binding of alpha-actinin was also observed in similar solid phase assays, albeit with a lower affinity than was seen using the beta 1 peptide. alpha-Actinin also bound specifically to phospholipid vesicles into which glycoprotein IIb/IIIa had been incorporated. These results lead us to suggest that this integrin-alpha- actinin linkage may contribute to the attachment of actin filaments to the membrane in certain locations.
PMCID: PMC2116186  PMID: 2116421
25.  Costameres are sites of force transmission to the substratum in adult rat cardiomyocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1992;118(6):1411-1420.
Costameres, the vinculin-rich, sub-membranous transverse ribs found in many skeletal and cardiac muscle cells (Pardo, J. V., J. D. Siciliano, and S. W. Craig. 1983. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 80:363-367.) are thought to anchor the Z-lines of the myofibrils to the sarcolemma. In addition, it has been postulated that costameres provide mechanical linkage between the cells' internal contractile machinery and the extracellular matrix, but direct evidence for this supposition has been lacking. By combining the flexible silicone rubber substratum technique (Harris, A. K., P. Wild, and D. Stopak. 1980. Science (Wash. DC). 208:177-179.) with the microinjection of fluorescently labeled vinculin and alpha-actinin, we have been able to correlate the distribution of costameres in adult rat cardiac myocytes with the pattern of forces these cells exert on the flexible substratum. In addition, we used interference reflection microscopy to identify areas of the cells which are in close contact to the underlying substratum. Our results indicate that, in older cell cultures, costameres can transmit forces to the extracellular environment. We base this conclusion on the following observations: (a) adult rat heart cells, cultured on the silicone rubber substratum for 8 or more days, produce pleat-like wrinkles during contraction, which diminish or disappear during relaxation; (b) the pleat-like wrinkles form between adjacent alpha-actinin-positive Z- lines; (c) the presence of pleat-like wrinkles is always associated with a periodic, "costameric" distribution of vinculin in the areas where the pleats form; and (d) a banded or periodic pattern of dark gray or close contacts (as determined by interference reflection microscopy) has been observed in many cells which have been in culture for eight or more days, and these close contacts contain vinculin. A surprising finding is that vinculin can be found in a costameric pattern in cells which are contracting, but not producing pleat-like wrinkles in the substratum. This suggests that additional proteins or posttranslational modifications of known costamere proteins are necessary to form a continuous linkage between the myofibrils and the extracellular matrix. These results confirm the hypothesis that costameres mechanically link the myofibrils to the extracellular matrix. We put forth the hypothesis that costameres are composite structures, made up of many protein components; some of these components function primarily to anchor myofibrils to the sarcolemma, while others form transmembrane linkages to the extracellular matrix.
PMCID: PMC2289604  PMID: 1522115

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