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J Biol Chem. 2004 Dec 17;279(51):53387-94. Epub 2004 Sep 27.

Modes of caldesmon binding to actin: sites of caldesmon contact and modulation of interactions by phosphorylation.

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Boston Biomedical Research Institute, 64 Grove St., Watertown, MA 02472, USA.


Smooth muscle caldesmon binds actin and inhibits actomyosin ATPase activity. Phosphorylation of caldesmon by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) reverses this inhibitory effect and weakens actin binding. To better understand this function, we have examined the phosphorylation-dependent contact sites of caldesmon on actin by low dose electron microscopy and three-dimensional reconstruction of actin filaments decorated with a C-terminal fragment, hH32K, of human caldesmon containing the principal actin-binding domains. Helical reconstruction of negatively stained filaments demonstrated that hH32K is located on the inner portion of actin subdomain 1, traversing its upper surface toward the C-terminal segment of actin, and forms a bridge to the neighboring actin monomer of the adjacent long pitch helical strand by connecting to its subdomain 3. Such lateral binding was supported by cross-linking experiments using a mutant isoform, which was capable of cross-linking actin subunits. Upon ERK phosphorylation, however, the mutant no longer cross-linked actin to polymers. Three-dimensional reconstruction of ERK-phosphorylated hH32K indeed indicated loss of the interstrand connectivity. These results, together with fluorescence quenching data, are consistent with a phosphorylation-dependent conformational change that moves the C-terminal end segment of caldesmon near the phosphorylation site but not the upstream region around Cys(595), away from F-actin, thus neutralizing its inhibitory effect on actomyosin interactions. The binding pattern of hH32K suggests a mechanism by which unphosphorylated, but not ERK-phosphorylated, caldesmon could stabilize actin filaments and resist F-actin severing or depolymerization in both smooth muscle and nonmuscle cells.

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