The relative composition of actin isoforms regulates cell surface biophysical features and cellular behaviors

Xin Xie, Muhammedin Deliorman, Mohammad A. Qasaimeh, Piergiorgio Percipalle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cell surface mechanics is able to physically and biomechanically affect cell shape and motility, vesicle trafficking and actin dynamics. The biophysical properties of cell surface are strongly influenced by cytoskeletal elements. In mammals, tissue-specific expression of six actin isoforms is thought to confer differential biomechanical properties. However, the relative contribution of actin isoforms to cell surface properties is not well understood. Here, we sought to investigate whether and how the composition of endogenous actin isoforms directly affects the biomechanical features of cell surface and cellular behavior. Methods: We used fibroblasts isolated from wild type (WT), heterozygous (HET) and from knockout (KO) mouse embryos where both β-actin alleles are not functional. We applied a combination of genome-wide analysis and biophysical methods such as RNA-seq and atomic force microscopy. Results: We found that endogenous β-actin levels are essential in controlling cell surface stiffness and pull-off force, which was not compensated by the up-regulation of other actin isoforms. The variations of surface biophysical features and actin contents were associated with distinct cell behaviors in 2D and 3D WT, HET and KO cell cultures. Since β-actin in WT cells and smooth muscle α-actin up-regulated in KO cells showed different organization patterns, our data support the differential localization and organization as a mechanism to regulate the biophysical properties of cell surface by actin isoforms. Conclusions: We propose that variations in actin isoforms composition impact on the biophysical features of cell surface and cause the changes in cell behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1090
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Actin isoforms
  • Cell behavior
  • Membrane properties
  • Membrane tension
  • Transcriptomics
  • β-actin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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