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Cristian Suarez

ADF/cofilin, an essential factor in the control of actin dynamic during cell motility

Published on 16 September 2011

Thesis presented September 16, 2011

During my thesis, I have studied the pivotal role of ADF/cofilin, a protein that binds to the actin cytoskeleton, specifically decorates ‘old’ actin filament parts, decreases by a factor of 5 the local filament rigidity and triggers filament fragmentation at boundaries between decorated and non-decorated filament sections. In my first study (Suarez et al., 2011, Current Biology), I have used evanescent wave microscopy and labeled ADF/cofilin to demonstrate that ADF/cofilin is a marker of the nucleotide state (i.e. ATP, ADP-Pi or ADP) associated with the actin sub-units in actively polymerizing filaments. In addition, because ADF/cofilin accelerates inorganic phosphate (Pi) release, the size of the ATP/ADP-Pi cap is diminished, although it cannot be reduced to zero. Fragmentation events frequency, determined from a thorough analysis of a population of single filaments decorated with labeled ADF/cofilin, is perfectly correlated with the binding density of ADF/cofilin on filaments. However, the maximal severing efficiency is obtained for half ADF/cofilin density. This paradoxical result is confirmed by analysis showing that severing sites are mainly associated with boundaries between decorated and bare actin filament sections. In consequence, in a second paper (McCullough et al., 2011, Biophysical Journal), I have took part in the ​study of actin filament deformation in relation with severing efficiency. Using different ADF/cofilin (vertebrate and yeast) and actin (vertebrate and yeast), we have shown that filament deformation at the boundary between bare and ADF/cofilin-decorated filament sections (which depends on the ADF/cofilin/actin combination) and severing are highly correlated. During my third study, (Reymann et al., 2011, Molecular Biology of the Cell), we established that stochastic dynamics, discovered at the molecular level for single filaments (or bundles of them), is also relevant to describe the macroscopic fragmentation of a comet tail consisting of hundreds of thousands filaments.
I have shown that ADF/cofilin activity is at the crossroad between macroscopic and microscopic systems, on one hand, and physics and chemistry, on the other hand. The characteristics of microscopic interactions of ADF/cofilin with a single filament are fundamental to understand the macroscopic dynamics of a fragmenting comet. In addition, we have established how the binding of ADF/cofilin (chemistry) controls the mechanical properties of the filament (physics) before fragmentation. ADF/cofilin is essential in the integration of physical and chemical mechanisms at the microscopic level, to ensure consistent behavior at the cell scale.

Actin, cytoskeleton, ADF/cofilin, cell motility

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