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1.  A small molecule inhibitor of tropomyosin dissociates actin binding from tropomyosin-directed regulation of actin dynamics 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:19816.
The tropomyosin family of proteins form end-to-end polymers along the actin filament. Tumour cells rely on specific tropomyosin-containing actin filament populations for growth and survival. To dissect out the role of tropomyosin in actin filament regulation we use the small molecule TR100 directed against the C terminus of the tropomyosin isoform Tpm3.1. TR100 nullifies the effect of Tpm3.1 on actin depolymerisation but surprisingly Tpm3.1 retains the capacity to bind F-actin in a cooperative manner. In vivo analysis also confirms that, in the presence of TR100, fluorescently tagged Tpm3.1 recovers normally into stress fibers. Assembling end-to-end along the actin filament is thereby not sufficient for tropomyosin to fulfil its function. Rather, regulation of F-actin stability by tropomyosin requires fidelity of information communicated at the barbed end of the actin filament. This distinction has significant implications for perturbing tropomyosin-dependent actin filament function in the context of anti-cancer drug development.
PMCID: PMC4726228  PMID: 26804624
2.  Hypoxia alters the recruitment of tropomyosins into the actin stress fibres of neuroblastoma cells 
BMC Cancer  2015;15:712.
Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor of childhood. The heterogeneous microenvironment of solid tumors contains hypoxic regions associated with poor prognosis and chemoresistance. Hypoxia implicates the actin cytoskeleton through its essential roles in motility, invasion and proliferation. However, hypoxia-induced changes in the actin cytoskeleton have only recently been observed in human cells. Tropomyosins are key regulators of the actin cytoskeleton and we hypothesized that tropomyosins may mediate hypoxic phenotypes.
Neuroblastoma (SH-EP) cells were incubated ± hypoxia (1 % O2, 5 % CO2) for up to 144 h, before examining the cytoskeleton by confocal microscopy and Western blotting.
Hypoxic cells were characterized by a more organized actin cytoskeleton and a reduced ability to degrade gelatin substrates. Hypoxia significantly increased mean actin filament bundle width (72 h) and actin filament length (72–96 h). This correlated with increased hypoxic expression and filamentous organization of stabilizing tropomyosins Tm1 and Tm2. However, isoform specific changes in tropomyosin expression were more evident at 96 h.
This study demonstrates hypoxia-induced changes in the recruitment of high molecular weight tropomyosins into the actin stress fibres of a human cancer. While hypoxia induced clear changes in actin organization compared with parallel normoxic cultures of neuroblastoma, the precise role of tropomyosins in this hypoxic actin reorganization remains to be determined.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1741-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4608101  PMID: 26475688
Hypoxia; Actin; Tropomyosin; Neuroblastoma
3.  Regulation of cell proliferation by ERK and signal-dependent nuclear translocation of ERK is dependent on Tm5NM1-containing actin filaments 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2015;26(13):2475-2490.
Tropomyosin Tm5NM1 regulates cell proliferation and organ size. It mediates this effect by regulating the interaction of pERK and Imp7, leading to the regulation of pERK nuclear translocation. This demonstrates a role for a specific population of actin filaments in regulating a critical step in the MAPK/ERK signaling pathway.
ERK-regulated cell proliferation requires multiple phosphorylation events catalyzed first by MEK and then by casein kinase 2 (CK2), followed by interaction with importin7 and subsequent nuclear translocation of pERK. We report that genetic manipulation of a core component of the actin filaments of cancer cells, the tropomyosin Tm5NM1, regulates the proliferation of normal cells both in vitro and in vivo. Mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) lacking Tm5NM1, which have reduced proliferative capacity, are insensitive to inhibition of ERK by peptide and small-molecule inhibitors, indicating that ERK is unable to regulate proliferation of these knockout (KO) cells. Treatment of wild-type MEFs with a CK2 inhibitor to block phosphorylation of the nuclear translocation signal in pERK resulted in greatly decreased cell proliferation and a significant reduction in the nuclear translocation of pERK. In contrast, Tm5NM1 KO MEFs, which show reduced nuclear translocation of pERK, were unaffected by inhibition of CK2. This suggested that it is nuclear translocation of CK2-phosphorylated pERK that regulates cell proliferation and this capacity is absent in Tm5NM1 KO cells. Proximity ligation assays confirmed a growth factor–stimulated interaction of pERK with Tm5NM1 and that the interaction of pERK with importin7 is greatly reduced in the Tm5NM1 KO cells.
PMCID: PMC4571302  PMID: 25971798
4.  Cell Elasticity Is Regulated by the Tropomyosin Isoform Composition of the Actin Cytoskeleton 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0126214.
The actin cytoskeleton is the primary polymer system within cells responsible for regulating cellular stiffness. While various actin binding proteins regulate the organization and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton, the proteins responsible for regulating the mechanical properties of cells are still not fully understood. In the present study, we have addressed the significance of the actin associated protein, tropomyosin (Tpm), in influencing the mechanical properties of cells. Tpms belong to a multi-gene family that form a co-polymer with actin filaments and differentially regulate actin filament stability, function and organization. Tpm isoform expression is highly regulated and together with the ability to sort to specific intracellular sites, result in the generation of distinct Tpm isoform-containing actin filament populations. Nanomechanical measurements conducted with an Atomic Force Microscope using indentation in Peak Force Tapping in indentation/ramping mode, demonstrated that Tpm impacts on cell stiffness and the observed effect occurred in a Tpm isoform-specific manner. Quantitative analysis of the cellular filamentous actin (F-actin) pool conducted both biochemically and with the use of a linear detection algorithm to evaluate actin structures revealed that an altered F-actin pool does not absolutely predict changes in cell stiffness. Inhibition of non-muscle myosin II revealed that intracellular tension generated by myosin II is required for the observed increase in cell stiffness. Lastly, we show that the observed increase in cell stiffness is partially recapitulated in vivo as detected in epididymal fat pads isolated from a Tpm3.1 transgenic mouse line. Together these data are consistent with a role for Tpm in regulating cell stiffness via the generation of specific populations of Tpm isoform-containing actin filaments.
PMCID: PMC4433179  PMID: 25978408
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

Results 1-5 (5)