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EMBO J. 2012 Feb 15;31(4):1000-13. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.461. Epub 2011 Dec 23.

How a single residue in individual β-thymosin/WH2 domains controls their functions in actin assembly.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Enzymologie et Biochimie Structurales, Centre de Recherche de Gif, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


β-Thymosin (βT) and WH2 domains are widespread, intrinsically disordered actin-binding peptides that display significant sequence variability and different regulations of actin self-assembly in motile and morphogenetic processes. Here, we reveal the structural mechanisms by which, in their 1:1 stoichiometric complexes with actin, they either inhibit assembly by sequestering actin monomers like Thymosin-β4, or enhance motility by directing polarized filament assembly like Ciboulot βT. We combined mutational, functional or structural analysis by X-ray crystallography, SAXS (small angle X-ray scattering) and NMR on Thymosin-β4, Ciboulot, TetraThymosinβ and the long WH2 domain of WASP-interacting protein. The latter sequesters G-actin with the same molecular mechanisms as Thymosin-β4. Functionally different βT/WH2 domains differ by distinct dynamics of their C-terminal half interactions with G-actin pointed face. These C-terminal interaction dynamics are controlled by the strength of electrostatic interactions with G-actin. At physiological ionic strength, a single salt bridge with actin located next to their central LKKT/V motif induces G-actin sequestration in both isolated long βT and WH2 domains. The results open perspectives for elucidating the functions of βT/WH2 domains in other modular proteins.

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