Structural basis of fast- And slow-severing actin-cofilactin boundaries

Glen M. Hocky, Charles V. Sindelar, Wenxiang Cao, Gregory A. Voth, Enrique M. De La Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Members of the ADF/cofilin family of regulatory proteins bind actin filaments cooperatively, locally change actin subunit conformation and orientation, and sever filaments at "boundaries"between bare and cofilin-occupied segments. A cluster of bound cofilin introduces two distinct classes of boundaries due to the intrinsic polarity of actin filaments, one at the "pointed"end side and the other at the "barbed"end-side of the cluster; severing occurs more readily at the pointed end side of the cluster ("fast-severing"boundary) than the barbed end side ("slow-severing"boundary). A recent electron-cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) model of the slow-severing boundary revealed structural "defects"at the interface that potentially contribute to severing. However, the structure of the fast-severing boundary remains uncertain. Here, we use extensive molecular dynamics simulations to produce atomic resolution models of both severing boundaries. Our equilibrated simulation model of the slow-severing boundary is consistent with the cryo-EM structural model. Simulations indicate that actin subunits at both boundaries adopt structures intermediate between those of bare and cofilin-bound actin subunits. These "intermediate"states have compromised intersubunit contacts, but those at the slow-severing boundary are stabilized by cofilin bridging interactions, accounting for its lower fragmentation probability. Simulations where cofilin proteins are removed from cofilactin filaments favor a mechanism in which a cluster of two contiguously bound cofilins is needed to fully stabilize the cofilactin conformation, promote cooperative binding interactions, and accelerate filament severing. Together, these studies provide a molecular-scale foundation for developing coarse-grained and theoretical descriptions of cofilin-mediated actin filament severing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100337
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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