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Cytoskeleton (Hoboken). 2012 Jan;69(1):49-58. doi: 10.1002/cm.20548. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

Effects of basic calponin on the flexural mechanics and stability of F-actin.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The cellular actin cytoskeleton plays a central role in the ability of cells to properly sense, propagate, and respond to external stresses and other mechanical stimuli. Calponin, an actin-binding protein found both in muscle and non-muscle cells, has been implicated in actin cytoskeletal organization and regulation. In this work, we studied the mechanical and structural interaction of actin with basic calponin, a differentiation marker in smooth muscle cells, on a single filament level. We imaged fluorescently labeled thermally fluctuating actin filaments and found that at moderate calponin binding densities, actin filaments were more flexible, evident as a reduction in persistence length from 8.0 to 5.8 μm. When calponin-decorated actin filaments were subjected to shear, we observed a marked reduction of filament lengths after decoration with calponin, which we argue was due to shear-induced filament rupture rather than depolymerization. This increased shear susceptibility was exacerbated with calponin concentration. Cryo-electron microscopy results confirmed previously published negative stain electron microscopy results and suggested alterations in actin involving actin subdomain 2. A weakening of F-actin intermolecular association is discussed as the underlying cause of the observed mechanical perturbations.

Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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