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Plant Cell. 2003 Jan;15(1):237-49.

Actin-depolymerizing factor mediates Rac/Rop GTPase-regulated pollen tube growth.

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  • 1Molecular and Cell Biology Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.


Pollen tube elongation is a rapid tip growth process that is driven by a dynamic actin cytoskeleton. A ubiquitous family of actin binding proteins, actin-depolymerizing factors (ADFs)/cofilins, bind to actin filaments, induce severing, enhance depolymerization from their slow-growing end, and are important for maintaining actin dynamics in vivo. ADFs/cofilins are regulated by multiple mechanisms, among which Rho small GTPase-activated phosphorylation at a terminal region Ser residue plays an important role in regulating their actin binding and depolymerizing activity, affecting actin reorganization. We have shown previously that a tobacco pollen-specific ADF, NtADF1, is important for maintaining normal pollen tube actin cytoskeleton organization and growth. Here, we show that tobacco pollen grains accumulate phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated forms of ADFs, suggesting that phosphorylation could be a regulatory mechanism for their activity. In plants, Rho-related Rac/Rop GTPases have been shown to be important regulators for pollen tube growth. Overexpression of Rac/Rop GTPases converts polar growth into isotropic growth, resulting in pollen tubes with ballooned tips and a disrupted actin cytoskeleton. Using the Rac/Rop GTPase-induced defective pollen tube phenotype as a functional assay, we show that overexpression of NtADF1 suppresses the ability of NtRac1, a tobacco Rac/Rop GTPase, to convert pollen tube tip growth to isotropic growth. This finding suggests that NtADF1 acts in a common pathway with NtRac1 to regulate pollen tube growth. A mutant form of NtADF1 with a nonphosphorylatable Ala substitution at its Ser-6 position [NtADF1(S6A)] shows increased activity, whereas the mutant NtADF1(S6D), which has a phospho-mimicking Asp substitution at the same position, shows reduced ability to counteract the effect of NtRac1. These observations suggest that phosphorylation at Ser-6 of NtADF1 could be important for its integration into the NtRac1 signaling pathway. Moreover, overexpression of NtRac1 diminishes the actin binding activity of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-NtADF1 but has little effect on the association of GFP-NtADF1(S6A) with actin cables in pollen tubes. Together, these observations suggest that NtRac1-activated activity regulates the actin binding and depolymerizing activity of NtADF1, probably via phosphorylation at Ser-6. This notion is further supported by the observation that overexpressing a constitutively active NtRac1 in transformed pollen grains significantly increases the ratio of phosphorylated to nonphosphorylated ADFs. Together, the observations reported here strongly support the idea that NtRac1 modulates NtADF1 activity through phosphorylation at Ser-6 to regulate actin dynamics.

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