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1.  Tropomyosin isoforms and reagents 
Bioarchitecture  2011;1(4):135-164.
Tropomyosins are rod-like dimers which form head-to-tail polymers along the length of actin filaments and regulate the access of actin binding proteins to the filaments.1 The diversity of tropomyosin isoforms, over 40 in mammals, and their role in an increasing number of biological processes presents a challenge both to experienced researchers and those new to this field. The increased appreciation that the role of these isoforms expands beyond that of simply stabilizing actin filaments has lead to a surge of reagents and techniques to study their function and mechanisms of action. This report is designed to provide a basic guide to the genes and proteins and the availability of reagents which allow effective study of this family of proteins. We highlight the value of combining multiple techniques to better evaluate the function of different tm isoforms and discuss the limitations of selected reagents. Brief background material is included to demystify some of the unfortunate complexity regarding this multi-gene family of proteins including the unconventional nomenclature of the isoforms and the evolutionary relationships of isoforms between species. Additionally, we present step-by-step detailed experimental protocols used in our laboratory to assist new comers to the field and experts alike.
PMCID: PMC3210517  PMID: 22069507
tropomyosin; isoforms; cytoskeleton; reagents; antibodies; multi-gene family
2.  Arp2/3 complex is essential for actin network treadmilling as well as for targeting of capping protein and cofilin 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(18):2861-2875.
Acute suppression of Arp2/3 complex activity in lamellipodia demonstrates its essential role in actin network treadmilling and filament organization and geometry. Arp2/3 complex activity also defines the recruitment of crucial independent factors, including capping protein and cofilin, and is essential for lamellipodia-based keratocyte migration.
Lamellipodia are sheet-like protrusions formed during migration or phagocytosis and comprise a network of actin filaments. Filament formation in this network is initiated by nucleation/branching through the actin-related protein 2/3 (Arp2/3) complex downstream of its activator, suppressor of cAMP receptor/WASP-family verprolin homologous (Scar/WAVE), but the relative relevance of Arp2/3-mediated branching versus actin filament elongation is unknown. Here we use instantaneous interference with Arp2/3 complex function in live fibroblasts with established lamellipodia. This allows direct examination of both the fate of elongating filaments upon instantaneous suppression of Arp2/3 complex activity and the consequences of this treatment on the dynamics of other lamellipodial regulators. We show that Arp2/3 complex is an essential organizer of treadmilling actin filament arrays but has little effect on the net rate of actin filament turnover at the cell periphery. In addition, Arp2/3 complex serves as key upstream factor for the recruitment of modulators of lamellipodia formation such as capping protein or cofilin. Arp2/3 complex is thus decisive for filament organization and geometry within the network not only by generating branches and novel filament ends, but also by directing capping or severing activities to the lamellipodium. Arp2/3 complex is also crucial to lamellipodia-based migration of keratocytes.
PMCID: PMC3771948  PMID: 23885122
3.  Aged skeletal muscle retains the ability to fully regenerate functional architecture 
Bioarchitecture  2013;3(2):25-37.
While the general understanding of muscle regenerative capacity is that it declines with increasing age due to impairments in the number of muscle progenitor cells and interaction with their niche, studies vary in their model of choice, indices of myogenic repair, muscle of interest and duration of studies. We focused on the net outcome of regeneration, functional architecture, compared across three models of acute muscle injury to test the hypothesis that satellite cells maintain their capacity for effective myogenic regeneration with age. Muscle regeneration in extensor digitorum longus muscle (EDL) of young (3 mo-old), old (22 mo-old) and senescent female mice (28 mo-old) was evaluated for architectural features, fiber number and central nucleation, weight, collagen and fat deposition. The 3 injury paradigms were: a myotoxin (notexin) which leaves the blood vessels and nerves intact, freezing (FI) that damages local muscle, nerve and blood vessels and denervation-devascularization (DD) which dissociates the nerves and blood vessels from the whole muscle. Histological analyses revealed successful architectural regeneration following notexin injury with negligible fibrosis and fully restored function, regardless of age. In comparison, the regenerative response to injuries that damaged the neurovascular supply (FI and DD) was less effective, but similar across the ages. The focus on net regenerative outcome demonstrated that old and senescent muscle has a robust capacity to regenerate functional architecture.
PMCID: PMC3715540  PMID: 23807088
skeletal muscle; aging; progenitor cells; fiber branching; contractility
4.  SUMOylation of GTF2IRD1 Regulates Protein Partner Interactions and Ubiquitin-Mediated Degradation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49283.
GTF2IRD1 is one of the genes implicated in Williams-Beuren syndrome, a disease caused by haploinsufficiency of certain dosage-sensitive genes within a hemizygous microdeletion of chromosome 7. GTF2IRD1 is a prime candidate for some of the major features of the disease, presumably caused by abnormally reduced abundance of this putative transcriptional repressor protein. GTF2IRD1 has been shown to interact with the E3 SUMO ligase PIASxβ, but the significance of this relationship is largely unexplored. Here, we demonstrate that GTF2IRD1 can be SUMOylated by the SUMO E2 ligase UBC9 and the level of SUMOylation is enhanced by PIASxβ. A major SUMOylation site was mapped to lysine 495 within a conserved SUMO consensus motif. SUMOylation of GTF2IRD1 alters the affinity of the protein for binding partners that contain SUMO-interacting motifs, including a novel family member of the HDAC repressor complex, ZMYM5, and PIASxβ itself. In addition, we show that GTF2IRD1 is targeted for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Cross regulation by SUMOylation modulates this process, thus potentially regulating the level of GTF2IRD1 protein in the cell. These findings, concerning post-translational control over the activity and stability of GTF2IRD1, together with previous work showing how GTF2IRD1 directly regulates its own transcription levels suggest an evolutionary requirement for fine control over GTF2IRD1 activity in the cell.
PMCID: PMC3493543  PMID: 23145142
5.  The actin cytoskeleton as a sensor and mediator of apoptosis 
Bioarchitecture  2012;2(3):75-87.
Apoptosis is an important biological process required for the removal of unwanted or damaged cells. Mounting evidence implicates the actin cytoskeleton as both a sensor and mediator of apoptosis. Studies also suggest that actin binding proteins (ABPs) significantly contribute to apoptosis and that actin dynamics play a key role in regulating apoptosis signaling. Changes in the organization of the actin cytoskeleton has been attributed to the process of malignant transformation and it is hypothesized that remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton may enable tumor cells to evade normal apoptotic signaling. This review aims to illuminate the role of the actin cytoskeleton in apoptosis by systematically analyzing how actin and ABPs regulate different apoptosis pathways and to also highlight the potential for developing novel compounds that target tumor-specific actin filaments.
PMCID: PMC3414384  PMID: 22880146
actin; apoptosis; actin binding proteins; mitochondria; Bcl-2; cancer; multi-drug resistance
6.  Spatial Localisation of Actin Filaments across Developmental Stages of the Malaria Parasite 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32188.
Actin dynamics have been implicated in a variety of developmental processes during the malaria parasite lifecycle. Parasite motility, in particular, is thought to critically depend on an actomyosin motor located in the outer pellicle of the parasite cell. Efforts to understand the diverse roles actin plays have, however, been hampered by an inability to detect microfilaments under native conditions. To visualise the spatial dynamics of actin we generated a parasite-specific actin antibody that shows preferential recognition of filamentous actin and applied this tool to different lifecycle stages (merozoites, sporozoites and ookinetes) of the human and mouse malaria parasite species Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei along with tachyzoites from the related apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Actin filament distribution was found associated with three core compartments: the nuclear periphery, pellicular membranes of motile or invasive parasite forms and in a ring-like distribution at the tight junction during merozoite invasion of erythrocytes in both human and mouse malaria parasites. Localisation at the nuclear periphery is consistent with an emerging role of actin in facilitating parasite gene regulation. During invasion, we show that the actin ring at the parasite-host cell tight junction is dependent on dynamic filament turnover. Super-resolution imaging places this ring posterior to, and not concentric with, the junction marker rhoptry neck protein 4. This implies motor force relies on the engagement of dynamic microfilaments at zones of traction, though not necessarily directly through receptor-ligand interactions at sites of adhesion during invasion. Combined, these observations extend current understanding of the diverse roles actin plays in malaria parasite development and apicomplexan cell motility, in particular refining understanding on the linkage of the internal parasite gliding motor with the extra-cellular milieu.
PMCID: PMC3289632  PMID: 22389687
7.  Internal and External Paralogy in the Evolution of Tropomyosin Genes in Metazoans 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2010;27(7):1504-1517.
Nature contains a tremendous diversity of forms both at the organismal and genomic levels. This diversity motivates the twin central questions of molecular evolution: what are the molecular mechanisms of adaptation, and what are the functional consequences of genomic diversity. We report a 22-species comparative analysis of tropomyosin (PPM) genes, which exist in a variety of forms and are implicated in the emergence of a wealth of cellular functions, including the novel muscle functions integral to the functional diversification of bilateral animals. TPM genes encode either or both of long-form [284 amino acid (aa)] and short-form (approximately 248 aa) proteins. Consistent with a role of TPM diversification in the origins and radiation of bilaterians, we find evidence that the muscle-specific long-form protein arose in proximal bilaterian ancestors (the bilaterian ‘stem’). Duplication of the 5′ end of the gene led to alternative promoters encoding long- and short-form transcripts with distinct functions. This dual-function gene then underwent strikingly parallel evolution in different bilaterian lineages. In each case, recurrent tandem exon duplication and mutually exclusive alternative splicing of the duplicates, with further association between these alternatively spliced exons along the gene, led to long- and short-form–specific exons, allowing for gradual emergence of alternative “internal paralogs” within the same gene. We term these Mutually exclusively Alternatively spliced Tandemly duplicated Exon sets “MATEs”. This emergence of internal paralogs in various bilaterians has employed every single TPM exon in at least one lineage and reaches striking levels of divergence with up to 77% of long- and short-form transcripts being transcribed from different genomic regions. Interestingly, in some lineages, these internal alternatively spliced paralogs have subsequently been “externalized” by full gene duplication and reciprocal retention/loss of the two transcript isoforms, a particularly clear case of evolution by subfunctionalization. This parallel evolution of TPM genes in diverse metazoans attests to common selective forces driving divergence of different gene transcripts and represents a striking case of emergence of evolutionary novelty by alternative splicing.
PMCID: PMC2912468  PMID: 20147436
genome innovation; alternative splicing; intron sliding; exon duplication; tropomyosin
8.  Tropomyosin isoform modulation of focal adhesion structure and cell migration 
Cell Adhesion & Migration  2010;4(2):226-234.
Orderly cell migration is essential for embryonic development, efficient wound healing and a functioning immune system and the dysregulation of this process leads to a number of pathologies. The speed and direction of cell migration is critically dependent on the structural organization of focal adhesions in the cell. While it is well established that contractile forces derived from the acto-myosin filaments control the structure and growth of focal adhesions, how this may be modulated to give different outcomes for speed and persistence is not well understood. The tropomyosin family of actin-associating proteins are emerging as important modulators of the contractile nature of associated actin filaments. The multiple non-muscle tropomyosin isoforms are differentially expressed between tissues and across development and are thought to be major regulators of actin filament functional specialization. In the present study we have investigated the effects of two splice variant isoforms from the same α-tropomyosin gene, TmBr1 and TmBr3, on focal adhesion structure and parameters of cell migration. These isoforms are normally switched on in neuronal cells during differentiation and we find that exogenous expression of the two isoforms in undifferentiated neuronal cells has discrete effects on cell migration parameters. While both isoforms cause reduced focal adhesion size and cell migration speed, they differentially effect actin filament phenotypes and migration persistence. Our data suggests that differential expression of tropomyosin isoforms may coordinate acto-myosin contractility and focal adhesion structure to modulate cell speed and persistence.
PMCID: PMC2900618  PMID: 20305380
focal adhesion; tropomyosin; actin; migration; persistence; speed; mesenchymal
9.  Tropomyosin Isoform Expression Regulates the Transition of Adhesions To Determine Cell Speed and Direction▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(6):1506-1514.
The balance of transition between distinct adhesion types contributes to the regulation of mesenchymal cell migration, and the characteristic association of adhesions with actin filaments led us to question the role of actin filament-associating proteins in the transition between adhesive states. Tropomyosin isoform association with actin filaments imparts distinct filament structures, and we have thus investigated the role for tropomyosins in determining the formation of distinct adhesion structures. Using combinations of overexpression, knockdown, and knockout approaches, we establish that Tm5NM1 preferentially stabilizes focal adhesions and drives the transition to fibrillar adhesions via stabilization of actin filaments. Moreover, our data suggest that the expression of Tm5NM1 is a critical determinant of paxillin phosphorylation, a signaling event that is necessary for focal adhesion disassembly. Thus, we propose that Tm5NM1 can regulate the feedback loop between focal adhesion disassembly and focal complex formation at the leading edge that is required for productive and directed cell movement.
PMCID: PMC2648248  PMID: 19124607
10.  Cytoskeletal Tropomyosin Tm5NM1 Is Required for Normal Excitation–Contraction Coupling in Skeletal Muscle 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(1):400-409.
The functional diversity of the actin microfilaments relies in part on the actin binding protein tropomyosin (Tm). The muscle-specific Tms regulate actin-myosin interactions and hence contraction. However, there is less known about the roles of the numerous cytoskeletal isoforms. We have shown previously that a cytoskeletal Tm, Tm5NM1, defines a Z-line adjacent cytoskeleton in skeletal muscle. Recently, we identified a second cytoskeletal Tm in this region, Tm4. Here we show that Tm4 and Tm5NM1 define separate actin filaments; the former associated with the terminal sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and other tubulovesicular structures. In skeletal muscles of Tm5NM1 knockout (KO) mice, Tm4 localization was unchanged, demonstrating the specificity of the membrane association. Tm5NM1 KO muscles exhibit potentiation of T-system depolarization and decreased force rundown with repeated T-tubule depolarizations consistent with altered T-tubule function. These results indicate that a Tm5NM1-defined actin cytoskeleton is required for the normal excitation–contraction coupling in skeletal muscle.
PMCID: PMC2613127  PMID: 19005216
11.  Sorting of a nonmuscle tropomyosin to a novel cytoskeletal compartment in skeletal muscle results in muscular dystrophy 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;166(5):685-696.
Tropomyosin (Tm) is a key component of the actin cytoskeleton and >40 isoforms have been described in mammals. In addition to the isoforms in the sarcomere, we now report the existence of two nonsarcomeric (NS) isoforms in skeletal muscle. These isoforms are excluded from the thin filament of the sarcomere and are localized to a novel Z-line adjacent structure. Immunostained cross sections indicate that one Tm defines a Z-line adjacent structure common to all myofibers, whereas the second Tm defines a spatially distinct structure unique to muscles that undergo chronic or repetitive contractions. When a Tm (Tm3) that is normally absent from muscle was expressed in mice it became associated with the Z-line adjacent structure. These mice display a muscular dystrophy and ragged-red fiber phenotype, suggestive of disruption of the membrane-associated cytoskeletal network. Our findings raise the possibility that mutations in these tropomyosin and these structures may underpin these types of myopathies.
PMCID: PMC2172434  PMID: 15337777
tropomyosin; muscles; muscular dystrophies; transgenic mice; sarcomeres
12.  Targeting of a Tropomyosin Isoform to Short Microfilaments Associated with the Golgi Complex 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(1):268-280.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the Golgi complex contains an actin-based filament system. We have previously reported that one or more isoforms from the tropomyosin gene Tm5NM (also known as γ-Tm), but not from either the α- or β-Tm genes, are associated with Golgi-derived vesicles (Heimann et al., (1999). J. Biol. Chem. 274, 10743-10750). We now show that Tm5NM-2 is sorted specifically to the Golgi complex, whereas Tm5NM-1, which differs by a single alternatively spliced internal exon, is incorporated into stress fibers. Tm5NM-2 is localized to the Golgi complex consistently throughout the G1 phase of the cell cycle and it associates with Golgi membranes in a brefeldin A-sensitive and cytochalasin D-resistant manner. An actin antibody, which preferentially reacts with the ends of microfilaments, newly reveals a population of short actin filaments associated with the Golgi complex and particularly with Golgi-derived vesicles. Tm5NM-2 is also found on these short microfilaments. We conclude that an alternative splice choice can restrict the sorting of a tropomyosin isoform to short actin filaments associated with Golgi-derived vesicles. Our evidence points to a role for these Golgi-associated microfilaments in vesicle budding at the level of the Golgi complex.
PMCID: PMC307546  PMID: 14528022

Results 1-12 (12)