A budding role for a cellular dynamo

Feb 18, 2009

Actin, a globular protein found in all eukaryotic cells, is a workhorse that varies remarkably little from baker's yeast to the human body. Part of the cytoskeleton, actin assembles into networks of filaments that give the cell structural plasticity while driving many essential functions, from cell motility and division, to vesicle and organelle transport within the cell. In a groundbreaking new study in the current issue of Developmental Cell, Brandeis researchers raise the curtain on how this actin maintains just the right filament length to keep the cell healthy and happily dividing.

Using baker's yeast as the model organism, Brandeis researchers Melissa Chesarone, Christopher Gould, and James Moseley, all in the lab of biologist Bruce Goode, set out to discover how the length of actin fibers is controlled. By answering this question, the scientists sought to advance understanding of asymmetrical cell division, a process that not only allows yeast to divide, but also ensures the proper renewal of human stem cells and plays a crucial role in early stages of embryonic development.

In yeast cells, as in all other cells, actin fibers serve as internal "railways" or tracks that give the cell directionality and provide the wherewithal for transporting various molecular and membrane-bound cargoes from one end of the cell to the other. Molecular machines called formins produce many of the actin fibers, but in the absence of a displacement factor to put a brake on the process, formins will essentially stop at nothing, producing excessively long actin filaments at ridiculously fast rates, and wreaking cellular havoc, says Goode. In humans, genetic defects in formins are associated with conditions such as infertility and deafness.

"We wanted to know how you turn the formins off. What disrupts the interaction of the formin with the actin filament, thus terminating actin assembly and regulating its length?" Goode explained.

The researchers discovered that a protein called Bud14 is a potent inhibitor, directly binding to the formin and displacing it, thereby producing actin filaments of normal length, a prerequisite for proper actin cable architecture and cargo transport.

"In all animal, plant, and human cells, life depends on rapidly producing actin filaments of defined lengths, and we now have an important clue as to how this is regulated," said Goode. "We're now homing in on the precise mechanism by which Bud14 works and extending this analysis to mammalian cells. Once again, yeast has provided the ideal system in which to pioneer a basic problem that applies to most other species."

Source: Brandeis University

Explore further: Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study characterizes genetic resistance to wheat disease

1 hour ago

A new study co-authored by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers has unearthed the genetic roots of resistance to a wheat disease that has recently devastated crop yields from southern Africa through ...

Linguists tackle computational analysis of grammar

1 hour ago

Children don't have to be told that "cat" and "cats" are variants of the same word—they pick it up just by listening. To a computer, though, they're as different as, well, cats and dogs. Yet it's computers ...

Recommended for you

Activating genes on demand

9 hours ago

When it comes to gene expression - the process by which our DNA provides the recipe used to direct the synthesis of proteins and other molecules that we need for development and survival - scientists have ...

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

10 hours ago

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership that includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, have found a way ...

Deadly frog fungus dates back to 1880s, studies find

12 hours ago

A deadly fungus responsible for the extinction of more than 200 amphibian species worldwide has coexisted harmlessly with animals in Illinois and Korea for more than a century, a pair of studies have found.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.