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J Cell Biol. 2017 May 1;216(5):1371-1386. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201603070. Epub 2017 Apr 11.

Plastin increases cortical connectivity to facilitate robust polarization and timely cytokinesis.

Author information

Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117411, Singapore.
Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, 1 Research Link, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117604, Singapore.
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology, and Research), Singapore 138673, Singapore.
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117543, Singapore.
Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117597, Singapore.
Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117583, Singapore.


The cell cortex is essential to maintain animal cell shape, and contractile forces generated within it by nonmuscle myosin II (NMY-2) drive cellular morphogenetic processes such as cytokinesis. The role of actin cross-linking proteins in cortical dynamics is still incompletely understood. Here, we show that the evolutionarily conserved actin bundling/cross-linking protein plastin is instrumental for the generation of potent cortical actomyosin contractility in the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote. PLST-1 was enriched in contractile structures and was required for effective coalescence of NMY-2 filaments into large contractile foci and for long-range coordinated contractility in the cortex. In the absence of PLST-1, polarization was compromised, cytokinesis was delayed or failed, and 50% of embryos died during development. Moreover, mathematical modeling showed that an optimal amount of bundling agents enhanced the ability of a network to contract. We propose that by increasing the connectivity of the F-actin meshwork, plastin enables the cortex to generate stronger and more coordinated forces to accomplish cellular morphogenesis.

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