The short actin filaments in the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton of human red blood cells (RBCs) are capable of dynamic subunit exchange and mobility. Actin dynamics in RBCs regulates the biomechanical properties of the RBC membrane.
Short, uniform-length actin filaments function as structural nodes in the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton to optimize the biomechanical properties of red blood cells (RBCs). Despite the widespread assumption that RBC actin filaments are not dynamic (i.e., do not exchange subunits with G-actin in the cytosol), this assumption has never been rigorously tested. Here we show that a subpopulation of human RBC actin filaments is indeed dynamic, based on rhodamine-actin incorporation into filaments in resealed ghosts and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) analysis of actin filament mobility in intact RBCs (∼25–30% of total filaments). Cytochalasin-D inhibition of barbed-end exchange reduces rhodamine-actin incorporation and partially attenuates FRAP recovery, indicating functional interaction between actin subunit turnover at the single-filament level and mobility at the membrane-skeleton level. Moreover, perturbation of RBC actin filament assembly/disassembly with latrunculin-A or jasplakinolide induces an approximately twofold increase or ∼60% decrease, respectively, in soluble actin, resulting in altered membrane deformability, as determined by alterations in RBC transit time in a microfluidic channel assay, as well as by abnormalities in spontaneous membrane oscillations (flickering). These experiments identify a heretofore-unrecognized but functionally important subpopulation of RBC actin filaments, whose properties and architecture directly control the biomechanical properties of the RBC membrane.
We explored a function for tropomyosin (TM) in mammalian myofibril assembly and cardiac development by analyzing a deletion in the mouse TPM1 gene targeting αTM1, the major striated muscle TM isoform.
Mice lacking αTM1 are embryonic lethal at E9.5 with enlarged, misshapen, and non-beating hearts characterized by an abnormally thin myocardium and reduced trabeculae. αTM1-deficient cardiomyocytes do not assemble striated myofibrils, instead displaying aberrant non-striated F-actin fibrils with α-actinin puncta dispersed irregularly along their lengths. αTM1’s binding partner, tropomodulin1 (Tmod1), is also disorganized, and both myomesin-containing thick filaments as well as titin Z1Z2 fail to assemble in a striated pattern. Adherens junctions are reduced in size in αTM1-deficient cardiomyocytes, α-actinin/F-actin adherens belts fail to assemble at apical cell-cell contacts, and cell contours are highly irregular, resulting in abnormal cell shapes and a highly folded cardiac surface. In addition, Tmod1-deficient cardiomyocytes exhibit failure of α-actinin/F-actin adherens belt assembly.
Absence of αTM1 resulting in unstable F-actin may preclude sarcomere formation and/or lead to degeneration of partially assembled sarcomeres due to unregulated actomyosin interactions. Our data also identify a novel αTM1/Tmod1-based pathway stabilizing F-actin at cell-cell junctions, which may be required for maintenance of cell shapes during embryonic cardiac morphogenesis.
α-actinin; cell junction; cardiomyocyte; heart; myofibrillogenesis; myomesin; thin filament; titin; tropomodulin1
Tropomodulins (Tmods) interact with tropomyosins (TMs) via two TM-binding sites and cap the pointed ends of TM-coated actin filaments. To study the functional interplay between TM binding and TM-actin filament capping by Tmods, we introduced disabling mutations into the first, second, or both TM-binding sites of full-length Tmod1 (Tmod1-L27G, Tmod1-I131D, and Tmod1-L27G/I131D, respectively) and full-length Tmod3 (Tmod3-L29G, Tmod3-L134D, and Tmod3-L29G/L134D, respectively). Tmod1 and Tmod3 showed somewhat different TM-binding site utilization, but nearly all TM binding was abolished in Tmod1-L27G/I131D and Tmod3-L29G/L134D. Disruption of Tmod-TM binding had a modest effect on Tmod1's ability and no effect on Tmod3's ability to stabilize TM-actin pointed ends against latrunculin A-induced depolymerization. However, disruption of Tmod-TM binding did significantly impair the ability of Tmod3 to reduce elongation rates at pointed ends with α/βTM, albeit less so with TM5NM1, and not at all with TM5b. For Tmod1, disruption of Tmod-TM binding only slightly impaired its ability to reduce elongation rates with α/βTM and TM5NM1, but not at all with TM5b. Thus, Tmod-TM binding has a greater influence on Tmods’ ability to inhibit subunit association as compared to dissociation from TM-actin pointed ends, particularly for α/βTM, with Tmod3's activity being more dependent on TM binding than Tmod1's activity. Nevertheless, disruption of Tmod1-TM binding precluded Tmod1 targeting to thin filament pointed ends in cardiac myocytes, suggesting that the functional effects of Tmod-TM binding on TM-coated actin filament capping can be significantly modulated by the in vivo conformation of the pointed end or other factors in the intracellular environment.
Nemaline myopathy (NM) is a genetic muscle disorder characterized by muscle dysfunction and electron-dense protein accumulations (nemaline bodies) in myofibers. Pathogenic mutations have been described in 9 genes to date, but the genetic basis remains unknown in many cases. Here, using an approach that combined whole-exome sequencing (WES) and Sanger sequencing, we identified homozygous or compound heterozygous variants in LMOD3 in 21 patients from 14 families with severe, usually lethal, NM. LMOD3 encodes leiomodin-3 (LMOD3), a 65-kDa protein expressed in skeletal and cardiac muscle. LMOD3 was expressed from early stages of muscle differentiation; localized to actin thin filaments, with enrichment near the pointed ends; and had strong actin filament-nucleating activity. Loss of LMOD3 in patient muscle resulted in shortening and disorganization of thin filaments. Knockdown of lmod3 in zebrafish replicated NM-associated functional and pathological phenotypes. Together, these findings indicate that mutations in the gene encoding LMOD3 underlie congenital myopathy and demonstrate that LMOD3 is essential for the organization of sarcomeric thin filaments in skeletal muscle.
Recent human genetic studies have provided evidences that sporadic or inherited missense mutations in four-and-a-half LIM domain protein 1 (FHL1), resulting in alterations in FHL1 protein expression, are associated with rare congenital myopathies, including reducing body myopathy and Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy. However, it remains to be clarified whether mutations in FHL1 cause skeletal muscle remodeling owing to gain- or loss of FHL1 function. In this study, we used FHL1-null mice lacking global FHL1 expression to evaluate loss-of-function effects on skeletal muscle homeostasis. Histological and functional analyses of soleus, tibialis anterior and sternohyoideus muscles demonstrated that FHL1-null mice develop an age-dependent myopathy associated with myofibrillar and intermyofibrillar (mitochondrial and sarcoplasmic reticulum) disorganization, impaired muscle oxidative capacity and increased autophagic activity. A longitudinal study established decreased survival rates in FHL1-null mice, associated with age-dependent impairment of muscle contractile function and a significantly lower exercise capacity. Analysis of primary myoblasts isolated from FHL1-null muscles demonstrated early muscle fiber differentiation and maturation defects, which could be rescued by re-expression of the FHL1A isoform, highlighting that FHL1A is necessary for proper muscle fiber differentiation and maturation in vitro. Overall, our data show that loss of FHL1 function leads to myopathy in vivo and suggest that loss of function of FHL1 may be one of the mechanisms underlying muscle dystrophy in patients with FHL1 mutations.
The lengths of the sarcomeric thin filaments vary in a skeletal muscle-specific manner and help specify the physiological properties of skeletal muscle. Since the extent of overlap between the thin and thick filaments determines the amount of contractile force that a sarcomere can actively produce, thin filament lengths are accurate predictors of muscle-specific sarcomere length-tension relationships and sarcomere operating length ranges. However, the striking uniformity of thin filament lengths within sarcomeres, specified during myofibril assembly, has led to the widely held assumption that thin filament lengths remain constant throughout an organism's lifespan. Here, we rigorously tested this assumption by using computational super-resolution image analysis of confocal fluorescence images to explore the effects of postnatal development and aging on thin filament length in mice. We found that thin filaments shorten in postnatal tibialis anterior (TA) and gastrocnemius muscles between postnatal days 7 and 21, consistent with the developmental program of myosin heavy chain (MHC) gene expression in this interval. By contrast, thin filament lengths in TA and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles remained constant between 2 mo and 2 yr of age, while thin filament lengths in soleus muscle became shorter, suggestive of a slow-muscle-specific mechanism of thin filament destabilization associated with aging. Collectively, these data are the first to show that thin filament lengths change as part of normal skeletal muscle development and aging, motivating future investigations into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying thin filament adaptation across the lifespan.
tropomodulin; actin; sarcomere; mouse; myofibril; myofilament
Calpain-mediated proteolysis of the thin filament pointed-end–capping protein tropomodulin results in actin subunit association onto pointed ends and increased thin filament lengths in two different murine models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This mechanism affects different skeletal muscles in a use- and disease severity–dependent manner.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) induces sarcolemmal mechanical instability and rupture, hyperactivity of intracellular calpains, and proteolytic breakdown of muscle structural proteins. Here we identify the two sarcomeric tropomodulin (Tmod) isoforms, Tmod1 and Tmod4, as novel proteolytic targets of m-calpain, with Tmod1 exhibiting ∼10-fold greater sensitivity to calpain-mediated cleavage than Tmod4 in situ. In mdx mice, increased m-calpain levels in dystrophic soleus muscle are associated with loss of Tmod1 from the thin filament pointed ends, resulting in ∼11% increase in thin filament lengths. In mdx/mTR mice, a more severe model of DMD, Tmod1 disappears from the thin filament pointed ends in both tibialis anterior (TA) and soleus muscles, whereas Tmod4 additionally disappears from soleus muscle, resulting in thin filament length increases of ∼10 and ∼12% in TA and soleus muscles, respectively. In both mdx and mdx/mTR mice, both TA and soleus muscles exhibit normal localization of α-actinin, the nebulin M1M2M3 domain, Tmod3, and cytoplasmic γ-actin, indicating that m-calpain does not cause wholesale proteolysis of other sarcomeric and actin cytoskeletal proteins in dystrophic skeletal muscle. These results implicate Tmod proteolysis and resultant thin filament length misspecification as novel mechanisms that may contribute to DMD pathology, affecting muscles in a use- and disease severity–dependent manner.
In humans, congenital myopathy-linked tropomyosin mutations lead to skeletal muscle dysfunction, but the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying such dysfunction remain obscure. Recent studies have suggested a unifying mechanism by which tropomyosin mutations partially inhibit thin filament activation and prevent proper formation and cycling of myosin cross-bridges, inducing force deficits at the fiber and whole-muscle levels. Here, we aimed to verify this mechanism using single membrane-permeabilized fibers from patients with three tropomyosin mutations (TPM2-null, TPM3-R167H and TPM2-E181K) and measuring a broad range of parameters. Interestingly, we identified two divergent, mutation-specific pathophysiological mechanisms. (i) The TPM2-null and TPM3-R167H mutations both decreased cooperative thin filament activation in combination with reductions in the myosin cross-bridge number and force production. The TPM3-R167H mutation also induced a concomitant reduction in thin filament length. (ii) In contrast, the TPM2-E181K mutation increased thin filament activation, cross-bridge binding and force generation. In the former mechanism, modulating thin filament activation by administering troponin activators (CK-1909178 and EMD 57033) to single membrane-permeabilized fibers carrying tropomyosin mutations rescued the thin filament activation defect associated with the pathophysiology. Therefore, administration of troponin activators may constitute a promising therapeutic approach in the future.
Correct specification of myofilament lengths is essential for efficient skeletal muscle contraction. Thin filament lengths are best specified by a novel ‘two-segment’ model, wherein the thin filament consists of two concatenated segments, of either constant or variable length, rather than by the classical ‘nebulin ruler’ model, wherein the thin filament is a uniform structure whose length is dictated by nebulin. The two-segment model implicates position-specific ‘differential microregulation’ of actin dynamics as a general principle underlying actin filament lengths and stability.
actin; tropomodulin; tropomyosin; nebulin; proximal segment; distal segment
Tropomodulins are a family of four proteins (Tmods 1–4) that cap the pointed ends of actin filaments in actin cytoskeletal structures in a developmentally regulated and tissue-specific manner. Unique among capping proteins, Tmods also bind tropomyosins (TMs), which greatly enhance the actin filament pointed-end capping activity of Tmods. Tmods are defined by a tropomyosin (TM)-regulated/Pointed-End Actin Capping (TM-Cap) domain in their unstructured N-terminal portion, followed by a compact, folded Leucine-Rich Repeat/Pointed-End Actin Capping (LRR-Cap) domain. By inhibiting actin monomer association and dissociation from pointed ends, Tmods regulate regulate actin dynamics and turnover, stabilizing actin filament lengths and cytoskeletal architecture. In this review, we summarize the genes, structural features, molecular and biochemical properties, actin regulatory mechanisms, expression patterns, and cell and tissue functions of Tmods. By understanding Tmods’ functions in the context of their molecular structure, actin regulation, binding partners, and related variants (leiomodins 1–3), we can draw broad conclusions that can explain the diverse morphological and functional phenotypes that arise from Tmod perturbation experiments in vitro and in vivo. Tmod-based stabilization and organization of intracellular actin filament networks provide key insights into how the emergent properties of the actin cytoskeleton drive tissue morphogenesis and physiology.
The basis for mammalian lens fiber cell organization, transparency, and biomechanical properties has contributions from two specialized cytoskeletal systems: the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton and beaded filament cytoskeleton. The spectrin-actin membrane skeleton predominantly consists of α2β2-spectrin strands interconnecting short, tropomyosin-coated actin filaments, which are stabilized by pointed-end capping by tropomodulin 1 (Tmod1) and structurally disrupted in the absence of Tmod1. The beaded filament cytoskeleton consists of the intermediate filament proteins CP49 and filensin, which require CP49 for assembly and contribute to lens transparency and biomechanics. To assess the simultaneous physiological contributions of these cytoskeletal networks and uncover potential functional synergy between them, we subjected lenses from mice lacking Tmod1, CP49, or both to a battery of structural and physiological assays to analyze fiber cell disorder, light scattering, and compressive biomechanical properties. Findings show that deletion of Tmod1 and/or CP49 increases lens fiber cell disorder and light scattering while impairing compressive load-bearing, with the double mutant exhibiting a distinct phenotype compared to either single mutant. Moreover, Tmod1 is in a protein complex with CP49 and filensin, indicating that the spectrin-actin network and beaded filament cytoskeleton are biochemically linked. These experiments reveal that the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton and beaded filament cytoskeleton establish a novel functional synergy critical for regulating lens fiber cell geometry, transparency, and mechanical stiffness.
Skeletal muscle exhibits strikingly regular intracellular sorting of actin and tropomodulin (Tmod) isoforms, which are essential for efficient muscle contraction. A recent study from our laboratory demonstrates that the skeletal muscle sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is associated with cytoplasmic γ-actin (γcyto-actin) filaments, which are predominantly capped by Tmod3. When Tmod3 is experimentally induced to vacate its SR compartment, the cytoskeletal organization of SR-associated γcyto-actin is perturbed, leading to SR swelling, depressed SR Ca2+ release and myofibril misalignment. Based on these findings, Tmod3-capped γcyto-actin filaments mechanically stabilize SR structure and regulate SR function via a novel lateral linkage. Furthermore, by placing these findings in the context of studies in nonmuscle cells, we conclude that Tmodcapped actin filaments are emerging as critical regulators of membrane stability and physiology in a broad assortment of cell types.
cell membrane; cytoskeletal connections; muscle contraction; sarcomere; sarcoplasmic reticulum; thin filament
Tropomodulins, cytoplasmic γ-actin, and small ankyrin 1.5 mechanically stabilize the sarcoplasmic reticulum and maintain myofibril alignment in skeletal muscle fibers.
The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) serves as the Ca2+ reservoir for muscle contraction. Tropomodulins (Tmods) cap filamentous actin (F-actin) pointed ends, bind tropomyosins (Tms), and regulate F-actin organization. In this paper, we use a genetic targeting approach to examine the effect of Tmod1 deletion on the organization of cytoplasmic γ-actin (γcyto-actin) in the SR of skeletal muscle. In wild-type muscle fibers, γcyto-actin and Tmod3 defined an SR microdomain that was distinct from another Z line–flanking SR microdomain containing Tmod1 and Tmod4. The γcyto-actin/Tmod3 microdomain contained an M line complex composed of small ankyrin 1.5 (sAnk1.5), γcyto-actin, Tmod3, Tm4, and Tm5NM1. Tmod1 deletion caused Tmod3 to leave its SR compartment, leading to mislocalization and destabilization of the Tmod3–γcyto-actin–sAnk1.5 complex. This was accompanied by SR morphological defects, impaired Ca2+ release, and an age-dependent increase in sarcomere misalignment. Thus, Tmod3 regulates SR-associated γcyto-actin architecture, mechanically stabilizes the SR via a novel cytoskeletal linkage to sAnk1.5, and maintains the alignment of adjacent myofibrils.
Efficient striated muscle contraction requires precise assembly and regulation of diverse actin filament systems, most notably the sarcomeric thin filaments of the contractile apparatus. By capping the pointed ends of actin filaments, tropomodulins (Tmods) regulate actin filament assembly, lengths, and stability. Here, we explore the current understanding of the expression patterns, localizations, and functions of Tmods in both cardiac and skeletal muscle. We first describe the mechanisms by which Tmods regulate myofibril assembly and thin filament lengths, as well as the roles of closely related Tmod family variants, the leiomodins (Lmods), in these processes. We also discuss emerging functions for Tmods in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This paper provides abundant evidence that Tmods are key structural regulators of striated muscle cytoarchitecture and physiology.
In skeletal muscle fibers, tropomodulin 1 (Tmod1) can be compensated for, structurally but not functionally, by Tmod3 and -4.
During myofibril assembly, thin filament lengths are precisely specified to optimize skeletal muscle function. Tropomodulins (Tmods) are capping proteins that specify thin filament lengths by controlling actin dynamics at pointed ends. In this study, we use a genetic targeting approach to explore the effects of deleting Tmod1 from skeletal muscle. Myofibril assembly, skeletal muscle structure, and thin filament lengths are normal in the absence of Tmod1. Tmod4 localizes to thin filament pointed ends in Tmod1-null embryonic muscle, whereas both Tmod3 and -4 localize to pointed ends in Tmod1-null adult muscle. Substitution by Tmod3 and -4 occurs despite their weaker interactions with striated muscle tropomyosins. However, the absence of Tmod1 results in depressed isometric stress production during muscle contraction, systemic locomotor deficits, and a shift to a faster fiber type distribution. Thus, Tmod3 and -4 compensate for the absence of Tmod1 structurally but not functionally. We conclude that Tmod1 is a novel regulator of skeletal muscle physiology.
Syncoilin is a striated muscle-specific intermediate filament-like protein, which is part of the dystrophin-associated protein complex (DPC) at the sarcolemma and provides a link between the extracellular matrix and the cytoskeleton through its interaction with α-dystrobrevin and desmin. Its upregulation in various neuromuscular diseases suggests that syncoilin may play a role in human myopathies. To study the functional role of syncoilin in cardiac and skeletal muscle in vivo, we generated syncoilin-deficient (syncoilin−/−) mice. Our detailed analysis of these mice up to 2 yr of age revealed that syncoilin is entirely dispensable for cardiac and skeletal muscle development and maintenance of cellular structure but is required for efficient lateral force transmission during skeletal muscle contraction. Notably, syncoilin−/− skeletal muscle generates less maximal isometric stress than wild-type (WT) muscle but is as equally susceptible to eccentric contraction-induced injury as WT muscle. This suggests that syncoilin may play a supportive role for desmin in the efficient coupling of mechanical stress between the myofibril and fiber exterior. It is possible that the reduction in isometric stress production may predispose the syncoilin skeletal muscle to a dystrophic condition.
intermediate filament; sarcomere; mutant mouse