Neurites of neurons under acute or chronic stress form bundles of filaments (rods) containing 1∶1 cofilin∶actin, which impair transport and synaptic function. Rods contain disulfide cross-linked cofilin and are induced by treatments resulting in oxidative stress. Rods form rapidly (5–30 min) in >80% of cultured hippocampal or cortical neurons treated with excitotoxic levels of glutamate or energy depleted (hypoxia/ischemia or mitochondrial inhibitors). In contrast, slow rod formation (50% of maximum response in ∼6 h) occurs in a subpopulation (∼20%) of hippocampal neurons upon exposure to soluble human amyloid-β dimer/trimer (Aβd/t) at subnanomolar concentrations. Here we show that proinflammatory cytokines (TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6) also induce rods at the same rate and within the same neuronal population as Aβd/t. Neurons from prion (PrPC)-null mice form rods in response to glutamate or antimycin A, but not in response to proinflammatory cytokines or Aβd/t. Two pathways inducing rod formation were confirmed by demonstrating that NADPH-oxidase (NOX) activity is required for prion-dependent rod formation, but not for rods induced by glutamate or energy depletion. Surprisingly, overexpression of PrPC is by itself sufficient to induce rods in over 40% of hippocampal neurons through the NOX-dependent pathway. Persistence of PrPC-dependent rods requires the continuous activity of NOX. Removing inducers or inhibiting NOX activity in cells containing PrPC-dependent rods causes rod disappearance with a half-life of about 36 min. Cofilin-actin rods provide a mechanism for synapse loss bridging the amyloid and cytokine hypotheses for Alzheimer disease, and may explain how functionally diverse Aβ-binding membrane proteins induce synaptic dysfunction.
Axonogenesis involves a shift from uniform delivery of materials to all neurites to preferential delivery to the putative axon, supporting its more rapid extension. Waves, growth cone-like structures that propagate down the length of neurites, were shown previously to correlate with neurite growth in dissociated cultured hippocampal neurons. Waves are similar to growth cones in their structure, composition and dynamics. Here, we report that waves form in all undifferentiated neurites, but occur more frequently in the future axon during initial neuronal polarization. Moreover, wave frequency and their impact on neurite growth are altered in neurons treated with stimuli that enhance axonogenesis. Coincident with wave arrival, growth cones enlarge and undergo a marked increase in dynamics. Through their engorgement of filopodia along the neurite shaft, waves can induce de novo neurite branching. Actin in waves maintains much of its cohesiveness during transport whereas actin in non-wave regions of the neurite rapidly diffuses as measured by live cell imaging of photoactivated GFP-actin and photoconversion of Dendra-actin. Thus, waves represent an alternative axonal transport mechanism for actin. Waves also occur in neurons in organotypic hippocampal slices where they propagate along neurites in the dentate gyrus and the CA regions and induce branching. Taken together, our results indicate that waves are physiologically relevant and contribute to axon growth and branching via the transport of actin and by increasing growth cone dynamics.
growth cones; axonogenesis; neurite branching; actin transport; organotypic hippocampal culture
The histopathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease are the extracellular amyloid plaques, composed principally of the amyloid beta peptide, and the intracellular neurofibrillary tangles, composed of paired helical filaments of the microtubule-associated protein, tau. Other histopathological structures involving actin and the actin-binding protein, cofilin, have more recently been recognized. Here we review new findings about these cytoskeletal pathologies, and, emphasize how plaques, tangles, the actin-containing inclusions and their respective building blocks may contribute to Alzheimer pathogenesis and the primary behavioral symptoms of the disease.
Alzheimer disease; tau; microtubule; actin; cofilin; amyloid beta
Filament bundles (rods) of cofilin and actin (1:1) form in neurites of stressed neurons where they inhibit synaptic function. Live-cell imaging of rod formation is hampered by the fact that overexpression of a chimera of wild type cofilin with a fluorescent protein causes formation of spontaneous and persistent rods, which is exacerbated by the photostress of imaging. The study of rod induction in living cells calls for a rod reporter that does not cause spontaneous rods. From a study in which single cofilin surface residues were mutated, we identified a mutant, cofilinR21Q, which when fused with monomeric Red Fluorescent Protein (mRFP) and expressed several fold above endogenous cofilin, does not induce spontaneous rods even during the photostress of imaging. CofilinR21Q-mRFP only incorporates into rods when they form from endogenous proteins in stressed cells. In neurons, cofilinR21Q-mRFP reports on rods formed from endogenous cofilin and induced by all modes tested thus far. Rods have a half-life of 30–60 min upon removal of the inducer. Vesicle transport in neurites is arrested upon treatments that form rods and recovers as rods disappear. CofilinR21Q-mRFP is a genetically encoded rod reporter that is useful in live cell imaging studies of induced rod formation, including rod dynamics, and kinetics of rod elimination.
ADF/cofilin proteins are key modulators of actin dynamics in metastasis and invasion of cancer cells. Here we focused on the roles of ADF and cofilin-1 individually in the development of polarized migration of rat mammary adenocarcinoma (MTLn3) cells, which express nearly equal amounts of each protein. Small interference RNA (siRNA) technology was used to knockdown (KD) the expression of ADF and cofilin-1 independently.
Either ADF KD or cofilin KD caused cell elongation, a reduction in cell area, a decreased ability to form invadopodia, and a decreased percentage of polarized cells after 180 s of epidermal growth factor stimulation. Moreover, ADF KD or cofilin KD increased the rate of cell migration and the time of lamellipodia protrusion but through different mechanisms: lamellipodia protrude more frequently in ADF KD cells and are more persistent in cofilin KD cells. ADF KD cells showed a significant increase in F-actin aggregates, whereas cofilin KD cells showed a significant increase in prominent F-actin bundles and increased cell adhesion. Focal adhesion area and cell adhesion in cofilin KD cells were returned to control levels by expressing exogenous cofilin but not ADF. Return to control rates of cell migration in ADF KD cells was achieved by expression of exogenous ADF but not cofilin, whereas in cofilin KD cells, expression of cofilin efficiently rescued control migration rates.
Although ADF and cofilin have many redundant functions, each of these isoforms has functional differences that affect F-actin structures, cell adhesion and lamellipodial dynamics, all of which are important determinants of cell migration.
ADF; Cofilin; Metastasis; Invadopodia; Adhesion; Lamellipodia
Chromophore-assisted laser inactivation (CALI) was developed to instantly and specifically inactivate cofilin in cells. Simultaneous CALI and live imaging revealed that the principal role of cofilin in lamellipodia at steady state is to break down F-actin, control filament turnover, and regulate the rate of retrograde flow in lamellipodia.
Cofilin is a key regulator of the actin cytoskeleton. It can sever actin filaments, accelerate filament disassembly, act as a nucleation factor, recruit or antagonize other actin regulators, and control the pool of polymerization-competent actin monomers. In cells these actions have complex functional outputs. The timing and localization of cofilin activity are carefully regulated, and thus global, long-term perturbations may not be sufficient to probe its precise function. To better understand cofilin's spatiotemporal action in cells, we implemented chromophore-assisted laser inactivation (CALI) to instantly and specifically inactivate it. In addition to globally inhibiting actin turnover, CALI of cofilin generated several profound effects on the lamellipodia, including an increase of F-actin, a rearward expansion of the actin network, and a reduction in retrograde flow speed. These results support the hypothesis that the principal role of cofilin in lamellipodia at steady state is to break down F-actin, control filament turnover, and regulate the rate of retrograde flow.
The contractile actin cortex is important for diverse fundamental cell processes, however, little is known about how the assembly of F-actin and myosin II motors is regulated. We report that depletion of ADF/cofilin proteins in human cells causes increased contractile cortical actomyosin assembly. Remarkably, our data reveal that the major cellular defects resulting from ADF/cofilin depletion, including cortical F-actin accumulation, were largely due to excessive myosin II activity. We identify that ADF/cofilins from unicellular organisms to humans share a conserved activity to inhibit myosin II binding to F-actin, indicating a mechanistic rationale for our cellular results. Our study establishes an essential requirement for ADF/cofilin proteins in the control of normal cortical contractility and in processes such as mitotic karyokinesis. We propose that ADF/cofilin proteins are necessary for controlling actomyosin assembly and intracellular contractile force generation, a function of equal physiological importance to their established roles in mediating F-actin turnover.
Rod-shaped aggregates (“rods”), containing equimolar actin and the actin dynamizing protein cofilin, appear in neurons following a wide variety of potentially oxidative stress: simulated microischemia, cofilin overexpression, and exposure to peroxide, excess glutamate, or the dimer/trimer forms of amyloid-β peptide (Aβd/t), the most synaptotoxic Aβ species. These rods are initially reversible and neuroprotective, but if they persist in neurites, the synapses degenerate without neurons dying. Herein we report evidence that rod formation depends on the generation of intermolecular disulfide bonds in cofilin. Of four Cys-to-Ala cofilin mutations expressed in rat E18 hippocampal neurons, only the mutant incapable of forming intermolecular bonds (CC39,147AA) has significantly reduced ability to incorporate into rods. Rod regions show unusually high oxidation levels. Rods, isolated from stressed neurons, contain dithiothreitol-sensitive multimeric forms of cofilin, predominantly dimer. Oligomerization of cofilin in cells represents one more mechanism for regulating the actin dynamizing activity of cofilin and probably underlies synaptic loss.
Proper neural circuitry requires that growth cones, motile tips of extending axons, respond to molecular guidance cues expressed in the developing organism. However, it is unclear how guidance cues modify the cytoskeleton to guide growth cone pathfinding. Here we show acute treatment with two attractive guidance cues, nerve growth factor (NGF) and netrin-1, for embryonic dorsal root ganglion and temporal retinal neurons, respectively, results in increased growth cone membrane protrusion, actin polymerization, and filamentous actin (F-actin). ADF/cofilin (AC) family proteins facilitate F-actin dynamics, and we found the inactive phosphorylated form of AC is decreased in NGF- or netrin-1-treated growth cones. Directly increasing AC activity mimics addition of NGF or netrin-1 to increase growth cone protrusion and F-actin levels. Extracellular gradients of NGF, netrin-1, and a cell-permeable AC elicit attractive growth cone turning and increased F-actin barbed ends, F-actin accumulation, and active AC in growth cone regions proximal to the gradient source. Reducing AC activity blunts turning responses to NGF and netrin. Our results suggest that gradients of NGF and netrin-1 locally activate AC to promote actin polymerization and subsequent growth cone turning toward the side containing higher AC activity.
guidance; neurotrophins; netrin; ADF/cofilin; actin; growth cone
Abnormal mitochondrial function is a widely reported contributor to neurodegenerative disease including Alzheimer's disease (AD), however, a mechanistic link between mitochondrial dysfunction and the initiation of neuropathology remains elusive. In AD, one of the earliest hallmark pathologies is neuropil threads comprising accumulated hyperphosphorylated microtubule-associated protein (MAP) tau in neurites. Rod-like aggregates of actin and its associated protein cofilin (AC rods) also occur in AD. Using a series of antibodies - AT270, AT8, AT100, S214, AT180, 12E8, S396, S404 and S422 - raised against different phosphoepitopes on tau, we characterize the pattern of expression and re-distribution in neurites of these phosphoepitope labels during mitochondrial inhibition. Employing chick primary neuron cultures, we demonstrate that epitopes recognized by the monoclonal antibody 12E8, are the only species rapidly recruited into AC rods. These results were recapitulated with the actin depolymerizing drug Latrunculin B, which induces AC rods and a concomitant increase in the 12E8 signal measured on Western blot. This suggests that AC rods may be one way in which MAP redistribution and phosphorylation is influenced in neurons during mitochondrial stress and potentially in the early pathogenesis of AD.
Recent findings have significantly expanded our understanding of the regulation of actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin proteins and the profound multifaceted impact that these well-established regulators of actin dynamics have on cell biology. In this review we discuss new aspects of previously documented regulation, such as phosphorylation, but also cover novel recently established modes of regulation and new functions of ADF (also known as destrin)/cofilin. We now understand that their activity responds to a vast array of inputs far greater than previously appreciated and that these proteins not only feed back to the crucially important dynamics of actin, but also to apoptosis cascades, phospholipid metabolism, and gene expression. We argue that this ability to respond to physiological changes by modulating those same changes makes the ADF/cofilin protein family a homeostatic regulator or ‘functional node’ in cell biology.
Dendritic spines undergo actin-based growth and shrinkage during synaptic plasticity. The actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin family of actin-associated proteins plays important roles in spine plasticity. Elevated ADF/cofilin activities often lead to reduced spine size and immature spine morphology, but can enhance synaptic potentiation in some cases. Therefore ADF/cofilin may exert distinct effects on postsynaptic structure and function. Here we report that ADF/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics regulate AMPA receptor (AMPAR) trafficking during synaptic potentiation, which is distinct from actin's structural role in spine morphology. We find that elevated ADF/cofilin activity markedly enhances surface addition of AMPARs after chemically-induced LTP (cLTP), whereas inhibition of ADF/cofilin abolishes AMPAR addition. Our data further show that cLTP elicits a temporal sequence of ADF/cofilin dephosphorylation and phosphorylation that underlies AMPAR trafficking and spine enlargement. These findings suggest a novel role for temporally-regulated ADF/cofilin activities in postsynaptic modifications of receptor number and spine size during synaptic plasticity.
ADF/cofilin; postsynaptic receptor trafficking; actin dynamics; synapse
Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by an expanded CAG tract in the Interesting transcript 15 (IT15) gene encoding the 350 kDa huntingtin protein. Cellular stresses can trigger the release of huntingtin from the endoplasmic reticulum, allowing huntingtin nuclear entry. Here, we show that endogenous, full-length huntingtin localizes to nuclear cofilin–actin rods during stress and is required for the proper stress response involving actin remodeling. Mutant huntingtin induces a dominant, persistent nuclear rod phenotype similar to that described in Alzheimer's disease for cytoplasmic cofilin–actin rods. Using live cell temporal studies, we show that this stress response is similarly impaired when mutant huntingtin is present, or when normal huntingtin levels are reduced. In clinical lymphocyte samples from HD patients, we have quantitatively detected cross-linked complexes of actin and cofilin with complex formation varying in correlation with disease progression. By live cell fluorescence lifetime imaging measurement–Förster resonant energy transfer studies and western blot assays, we quantitatively observed that stress-activated tissue transglutaminase 2 (TG2) is responsible for the actin–cofilin covalent cross-linking observed in HD. These data support a direct role for huntingtin in nuclear actin re-organization, and describe a new pathogenic mechanism for aberrant TG2 enzymatic hyperactivity in neurodegenerative diseases.
Previously we reported 1 μM synthetic human amyloid beta1-42 oligomers induced cofilin dephosphorylation (activation) and formation of cofilin-actin rods within rat hippocampal neurons primarily localized to the dentate gyrus.
Here we demonstrate that a gel filtration fraction of 7PA2 cell-secreted SDS-stable human Aβ dimers and trimers (Aβd/t) induces maximal neuronal rod response at ~250 pM. This is 4,000-fold more active than traditionally prepared human Aβ oligomers, which contain SDS-stable trimers and tetramers, but are devoid of dimers. When incubated under tyrosine oxidizing conditions, synthetic human but not rodent Aβ1-42, the latter lacking tyrosine, acquires a marked increase (620 fold for EC50) in rod-inducing activity. Gel filtration of this preparation yielded two fractions containing SDS-stable dimers, trimers and tetramers. One, eluting at a similar volume to 7PA2 Aβd/t, had maximum activity at ~5 nM, whereas the other, eluting at the void volume (high-n state), lacked rod inducing activity at the same concentration. Fractions from 7PA2 medium containing Aβ monomers are not active, suggesting oxidized SDS-stable Aβ1-42 dimers in a low-n state are the most active rod-inducing species. Aβd/t-induced rods are predominantly localized to the dentate gyrus and mossy fiber tract, reach significance over controls within 2 h of treatment, and are reversible, disappearing by 24 h after Aβd/t washout. Overexpression of cofilin phosphatases increase rod formation when expressed alone and exacerbate rod formation when coupled with Aβd/t, whereas overexpression of a cofilin kinase inhibits Aβd/t-induced rod formation.
Together these data support a mechanism by which Aβd/t alters the actin cytoskeleton via effects on cofilin in neurons critical to learning and memory.
Insulin increases GLUT4 at the muscle cell surface, and this process requires actin remodeling. We show that a dynamic cycle of actin polymerization and severing is induced by insulin, governed by Arp2/3 and dephosphorylation of cofilin, respectively. The cycle is self-perpetuating and is essential for GLUT4 translocation.
GLUT4 vesicles are actively recruited to the muscle cell surface upon insulin stimulation. Key to this process is Rac-dependent reorganization of filamentous actin beneath the plasma membrane, but the underlying molecular mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Using L6 rat skeletal myoblasts stably expressing myc-tagged GLUT4, we found that Arp2/3, acting downstream of Rac GTPase, is responsible for the cortical actin polymerization evoked by insulin. siRNA-mediated silencing of either Arp3 or p34 subunits of the Arp2/3 complex abrogated actin remodeling and impaired GLUT4 translocation. Insulin also led to dephosphorylation of the actin-severing protein cofilin on Ser-3, mediated by the phosphatase slingshot. Cofilin dephosphorylation was prevented by strategies depolymerizing remodeled actin (latrunculin B or p34 silencing), suggesting that accumulation of polymerized actin drives severing to enact a dynamic actin cycling. Cofilin knockdown via siRNA caused overwhelming actin polymerization that subsequently inhibited GLUT4 translocation. This inhibition was relieved by reexpressing Xenopus wild-type cofilin-GFP but not the S3E-cofilin-GFP mutant that emulates permanent phosphorylation. Transferrin recycling was not affected by depleting Arp2/3 or cofilin. These results suggest that cofilin dephosphorylation is required for GLUT4 translocation. We propose that Arp2/3 and cofilin coordinate a dynamic cycle of actin branching and severing at the cell cortex, essential for insulin-mediated GLUT4 translocation in muscle cells.
In collaboration or competition with many other actin-binding proteins, the actin-depolymerizing factor/cofilins integrate transmembrane signals to coordinate the spatial and temporal organization of actin filament assembly/disassembly (dynamics). In addition, newly discovered effects of these proteins in lipid metabolism, gene regulation, and apoptosis suggest that their roles go well beyond regulating the cytoskeleton.
In Alzheimer disease (AD), rod-like cofilin aggregates (cofilin-actin rods) and thread-like inclusions containing phosphorylated microtubule-associated protein (pMAP) tau form in the brain (neuropil threads) and the extent of their presence correlates with cognitive decline and disease progression. The assembly mechanism of these respective pathological lesions and the relationship between them is poorly understood, yet vital to understanding the causes of sporadic AD. We demonstrate that during mitochondrial inhibition, activated actin-depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin assemble into rods along processes of cultured primary neurons that recruit pMAP/tau and mimic neuropil threads. Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) analysis revealed co-localization of cofilin-GFP and pMAP in rods, suggesting their close proximity within a cytoskeletal inclusion complex. The relationship between pMAP and cofilin-actin rods was further investigated using actin-modifying drugs and siRNA knockdown of ADF/cofilin in primary neurons. The results suggest that activation of ADF/cofilin and generation of cofilin-actin rods is required for the subsequent recruitment of pMAP into the inclusions. Additionally we were able to induce the formation of pMAP-positive ADF/cofilin rods by exposing cells to exogenous Aβ peptides. These results reveal a common pathway for pMAP and cofilin accumulation in neuronal processes. The requirement of activated ADF/cofilin for the sequestration of pMAP suggests that neuropil thread structures in the AD brain may be initiated by elevated cofilin activation and F-actin bundling that can be caused by oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction or Aβ peptides, all suspected initiators of synaptic loss and neurodegeneration in AD.
microtubule associated protein/MAP; tau; ADF/cofilin; actin; Alzheimer disease; mitochondria
Postsynaptic receptor localization is crucial for synapse development and function, but the underlying cytoskeletal mechanisms remain elusive. Using Xenopus neuromuscular junctions as a model, we here report that actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin regulates actin-dependent vesicular trafficking of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) to the postsynaptic membrane. We found that active ADF/cofilin was concentrated in small puncta adjacent to AChR clusters and spatiotemporally correlated with the formation and maintenance of surface AChR clusters. Importantly, increased actin dynamics, vesicular markers, and intracellular AChRs were all enriched at the sites of ADF/cofilin localization. Furthermore, a substantial amount of new AChRs was detected at these ADF/cofilin-enriched sites. Manipulation of either ADF/cofilin activity through its serine-3 phosphorylation or ADF/cofilin localization via 14-3-3 proteins markedly attenuated AChR insertion and clustering. These results suggest that spatiotemporally restricted ADF/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics regulate AChR trafficking during the development of neuromuscular synapses.
ADF/cofilin; receptor trafficking; actin dynamics; neuromuscular junction; synapse
Actin and its key regulatory component cofilin are found together in large rod-shaped assemblies in neurons subjected to energy stress. Such inclusions are also enriched in Alzheimer’s disease brain, and appear in transgenic models of neurodegeneration. Neuronal insults such as energy loss and/or oxidative stress result in rapid dephosphorylation of the cellular cofilin pool prior to its assembly into rod-shaped inclusions. Although these events implicate a role for phosphatases in cofilin rod formation, a mechanism linking energy stress, phosphocofilin turnover and subsequent rod assembly has been elusive. Here, we demonstrate the ATP-sensitive interaction of the cofilin phosphatase Chronophin (CIN) with the chaperone Hsp90 to form a biosensor that mediates cofilin/actin rod formation. Our results suggest a model whereby attenuated interactions between CIN and Hsp90 during ATP depletion enhance CIN-dependent cofilin dephosphorylation and consequent rod assembly, thereby providing a mechanism for the formation of pathological actin/cofilin aggregates during neurodegenerative energy flux.
Cofilin dephosphorylation; Cofilin rods; ATP depletion; Neurodegeneration; Hsp90; Chronophin; Neurons; Actin
Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) are involved in axon pathfinding, but how they guide growth cones remains elusive. In this study, we report that a BMP7 gradient elicits bidirectional turning responses from nerve growth cones by acting through LIM kinase (LIMK) and Slingshot (SSH) phosphatase to regulate actin-depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics. Xenopus laevis growth cones from 4–8-h cultured neurons are attracted to BMP7 gradients but become repelled by BMP7 after overnight culture. The attraction and repulsion are mediated by LIMK and SSH, respectively, which oppositely regulate the phosphorylation-dependent asymmetric activity of ADF/cofilin to control the actin dynamics and growth cone steering. The attraction to repulsion switching requires the expression of a transient receptor potential (TRP) channel TRPC1 and involves Ca2+ signaling through calcineurin phosphatase for SSH activation and growth cone repulsion. Together, we show that spatial regulation of ADF/cofilin activity controls the directional responses of the growth cone to BMP7, and Ca2+ influx through TRPC tilts the LIMK-SSH balance toward SSH-mediated repulsion.
The specific functions of greater than 40 vertebrate nonmuscle tropomyosins (Tms) are poorly understood. In this article we have tested the ability of two Tm isoforms, TmBr3 and the human homologue of Tm5 (hTM5NM1), to regulate actin filament function. We found that these Tms can differentially alter actin filament organization, cell size, and shape. hTm5NM1 was able to recruit myosin II into stress fibers, which resulted in decreased lamellipodia and cellular migration. In contrast, TmBr3 transfection induced lamellipodial formation, increased cellular migration, and reduced stress fibers. Based on coimmunoprecipitation and colocalization studies, TmBr3 appeared to be associated with actin-depolymerizing factor/cofilin (ADF)-bound actin filaments. Additionally, the Tms can specifically regulate the incorporation of other Tms into actin filaments, suggesting that selective dimerization may also be involved in the control of actin filament organization. We conclude that Tm isoforms can be used to specify the functional properties and molecular composition of actin filaments and that spatial segregation of isoforms may lead to localized specialization of actin filament function.
In contrast to the slow rate of depolymerization of pure actin in vitro, populations of actin filaments in vivo turn over rapidly. Therefore, the rate of actin depolymerization must be accelerated by one or more factors in the cell. Since the actin dynamics in Listeria monocytogenes tails bear many similarities to those in the lamellipodia of moving cells, we have used Listeria as a model system to isolate factors required for regulating the rapid actin filament turnover involved in cell migration. Using a cell-free Xenopus egg extract system to reproduce the Listeria movement seen in a cell, we depleted candidate depolymerizing proteins and analyzed the effect that their removal had on the morphology of Listeria tails. Immunodepletion of Xenopus actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin (XAC) from Xenopus egg extracts resulted in Listeria tails that were approximately five times longer than the tails from undepleted extracts. Depletion of XAC did not affect the tail assembly rate, suggesting that the increased tail length was caused by an inhibition of actin filament depolymerization. Immunodepletion of Xenopus gelsolin had no effect on either tail length or assembly rate. Addition of recombinant wild-type XAC or chick ADF protein to XAC-depleted extracts restored the tail length to that of control extracts, while addition of mutant ADF S3E that mimics the phosphorylated, inactive form of ADF did not reduce the tail length. Addition of excess wild-type XAC to Xenopus egg extracts reduced the length of Listeria tails to a limited extent. These observations show that XAC but not gelsolin is essential for depolymerizing actin filaments that rapidly turn over in Xenopus extracts. We also show that while the depolymerizing activities of XAC and Xenopus extract are effective at depolymerizing normal filaments containing ADP, they are unable to completely depolymerize actin filaments containing AMPPNP, a slowly hydrolyzible ATP analog. This observation suggests that the substrate for XAC is the ADP-bound subunit of actin and that the lifetime of a filament is controlled by its nucleotide content.