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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Aug;1770(8):1115-27. Epub 2007 Mar 31.

Dynamics of actin filaments during tension-dependent formation of actin bundles.

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ICORP/SORST, Cell Mechanosensing Project, Japan Science and Technology Agency, 65 Tsurumai, Showa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 466-8550, Japan.


The actin cytoskeleton stress fiber is an actomyosin-based contractile structure seen as a bundle of actin filaments. Although tension development in a cell is believed to regulate stress fiber formation, little is known for the underlying biophysical mechanisms. To address this question, we examined the effects of tension on the behaviors of individual actin filaments during stress fiber (actin bundle) formation using cytosol-free semi-intact fibroblast cells that were pre-treated with the Rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632 to disassemble stress fibers into a meshwork of actin filaments. These filaments were sparsely labeled with quantum dots for live tracking of their motions. When ATP and Ca(2+) were applied to the semi-intact cells to generate actomyosin-based forces, actin meshwork in the protruded lamellae was dragged toward the cell body, while the periphery of the meshwork remained in the original region, indicating that centripetally directed tension developed in the meshwork. Then the individual actin filaments in the meshwork moved towards the cell body accompanied with sudden changes in the direction of their movements, finally forming actin bundles along the direction of tension. Dragging the meshwork by externally applied mechanical forces also exerted essentially the same effects. These results suggest the existence of tension-dependent remodeling of cross-links within the meshwork during the rearrangement of actin filaments, thus demonstrating that tension is a key player to regulate the dynamics of individual actin filaments that leads to actin bundle formation.

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