Background: Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP(2)) has been implicated in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and vesicle trafficking. It stimulates de novo actin polymerization by activating the pathway involving the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) and the actin-related protein complex Arp2/3. Other studies show that actin polymerizes from cholesterol-sphingolipid-rich membrane microdomains called 'rafts', in a manner dependent on tyrosine phosphorylation. Although actin has been implicated in vesicle trafficking, and rafts are sites of active phosphoinositide and tyrosine kinase signaling that mediate apically directed vesicle trafficking, it is not known whether phosphoinositide regulation of actin dynamics occurs in rafts, or if it is linked to vesicle movements.
Results: Overexpression of type I phosphatidylinositol phosphate 5-kinase (PIP5KI), which synthesizes PIP(2), promoted actin polymerization from membrane-bound vesicles to form motile actin comets. Pervanadate (PV), a tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor, induced comets even in the absence of PIP5KI overexpression. PV increased PIP(2) levels, suggesting that it induces comets by changing PIP(2) homeostasis and by increasing tyrosine phosphorylation. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) enhanced PV-induced comet formation, and these stimuli together potentiated the PIP5KI effect. The vesicles at the heads of comets were enriched in PIP5KIs and tyrosine phosphoproteins. WASP-Arp2/3 involvement was established using dominant-negative WASP constructs. Endocytic and exocytic markers identified vesicles enriched in lipid rafts as preferential sites of comet generation. Extraction of cholesterol with methyl-beta-cyclodextrin reduced comets, establishing that rafts promote comet formation.
Conclusions: Sphingolipid-cholesterol rafts are preferred platforms for membrane-linked actin polymerization. This is mediated by in situ PIP(2) synthesis and tyrosine kinase signaling through the WASP-Arp2/3 pathway. Actin comets may provide a novel mechanism for raft-dependent vesicle transport and apical membrane trafficking.