A key building block of life, actin is one of the most abundant and highly conserved proteins in eukaryotic cells.
First discovered in muscle cells more than 70 years ago, actin has a well-established identity as a cytoplasmic protein that works by linking itself in chains to form filaments. Fibers formed by these actin polymers are crucial to muscle contraction.
So it came as a surprise when scientists discovered actin in the nucleus. Labs have been working for the past few decades to figure out exactly what it's doing there.
A new study published this week in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology reveals that actin has a new and fundamental nuclear function, and that surprisingly, it accomplishes this task in its single-molecule (monomeric) form – not through polymerization.
Senior author of the study Xuetong "Snow" Shen, Ph.D., associate professor in The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis, has been fascinated by the mystery of nuclear actin. In collaboration with researchers from Colorado State University, his lab developed a unique model system to nail down actin's function in the nucleus by studying the actin-containing INO80 chromatin remodeling complex.
In 2000, as a postdoc at NIH in Carl Wu's lab, Shen identified actin as a component of the INO80 complex, adding to the growing list of evidence that actin indeed has a life in the nucleus. However, how actin actually works in the nucleus remains fuzzy due to lack of clear experimental systems.
"Our model system opened up a new opportunity to look in depth at the function of nuclear actin as it relates to gene regulation, genome stability, and ultimately cancer," Snow said.A nuclear role for monomeric actin
The researchers used both genetic and biochemical methods to dissect actin's role in the INO80 complex. The INO80 complex normally functions in the nucleus to rearrange chromatin ¬– the intertwined proteins and DNA that are packaged into chromosomes – regulating the expression of many different genes.
The authors found that a mutant form of actin impairs the ability of INO80 to function correctly, implicating actin in the process of chromatin remodeling – an exploding field of research with applications in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
In the cytoplasm, actin functions primarily as a polymer. Cytoplasmic actin is a component of the cytoskeleton and the muscle contractile machinery, and is essential for cell mobility, including cancer metastasis. Actin inside the INO80 complex is arranged in a clever way such that it cannot polymerize; instead, actin's monomeric form appears to interact with chromatin.
"Our study challenges the dogma that actin functions through polymerization, revealing a novel and likely a fundamental mechanism for monomeric nuclear actin," Shen said.New findings for an ancient complex
Shen's group is now teasing out the exact mechanism by which nuclear actin interacts with chromatin. They also hope to extend the results to human cells and to identify potential ways by which nuclear actin could be involved in cancer.Chromatin is critical for maintaining the delicate balance between gene activation and repression, Shen said. "Disrupting this regulation can lead to cancer, and it remains to be seen whether nuclear actin has a role in this process."
The research was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute (K22CA100017) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (RO1GM093104), both of the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Cancer Epigenetics, the Theodore N. Law Endowment for Scientific Achievement at MD Anderson and by MD Anderson's Odyssey postdoctoral program to KapoorAbout MD Anderson
Get M. D. Anderson News Via RSS Follow MDAnderson News on Twitter
Scott Merville | EurekAlert!
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences