Disruption of the actin cytoskeleton after microinjection of proteolytic fragments of α-actinin

Fredrick M. Pavalko, Keith Burridge

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121 Scopus citations


α-Actinin can be proteolytically cleaved into major fragments of 27 and 53 kD using the enzyme thermolysin. The 27-kD fragment contains an actin-binding site and we have recently shown that the 53-kD fragment binds to the cytoplasmic domain of β1 integrin in vitro (Otey, C. A., F. M. Pavalko, and K. Burridge. 1990. J. Cell Biol. 111:721-729). We have explored the behavior of the isolated 27- and 53-kD fragments of α-actinin after their microinjection into living cells. Consistent with its containing a binding site for actin, the 27-kD fragment was detected along stress fibers within 10-20 min after injection into rat embryo fibroblasts (REF-52). The 53-kD fragment of α-actinin, however, concentrated in focal adhesions of REF-52 cells 10-20 min after injection. The association of this fragment with focal adhesions in vivo is consistent with its interaction in vitro with the cytoplasmic domain of the β1 subunit of integrin, which was also localized at these sites. When cells were injected with >5 μM final concentration of either α-actinin fragment and cultured for 30-60 min, most stress fibers were disassembled. At this time, however, many of the focal adhesions, particularly those around the cell periphery, remained after most stress fibers had gone. By 2 h after injection only a few small focal adhesions persisted, yet the cells remained spread. Identical results were obtained with other cell types including primary chick fibroblasts, BSC-1, MDCK, and gerbil fibroma cells. Stress fibers and focal adhesions reformed if cells were allowed to recover for 18 h after injection. These data suggest that introduction of the monomeric 27-kD fragment of α-actinin into cells may disrupt the actin cytoskeleton by interfering with the function of endogenous, intact α-actinin molecules along stress fibers. The 53-kD fragment may interfere with endogenous α-actinin function at focal adhesions or by displacing some other component that binds to the rod domain of α-actinin and that is needed to maintain stress fiber organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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