Uncoupling actin filament fragmentation by cofilin from increased subunit turnover

J Mol Biol. 2000 May 12;298(4):649-61. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2000.3688.


The actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin family of proteins interact with actin monomers and filaments in a pH-sensitive manner. When ADF/cofilin binds F-actin it induces a change in the helical twist and fragmentation; it also accelerates the dissociation of subunits from the pointed ends of filaments, thereby increasing treadmilling or depolymerization. Using site-directed mutagenesis we characterized the two actin-binding sites on human cofilin. One target site was chosen because we previously showed that the villin head piece competes with ADF for binding to F-actin. Limited sequence homology between ADF/cofilin and the part of the villin headpiece essential for actin binding suggested an actin-binding site on cofilin involving a structural loop at the opposite end of the molecule to the alpha-helix already implicated in actin binding. Binding through the alpha-helix is primarily to monomeric actin, whereas the loop region is specifically involved in filament association. We have characterized the actin binding properties of each site independently of the other. Mutation of a single lysine residue in the loop region abolishes binding to filaments, but not to monomers. Using the mutation analogous to the phosphorylated form of cofilin (S3D), we show that filament binding is inhibited at physiological ionic strength but not under low salt conditions. At low ionic strength, this mutant induces both the twist change and fragmentation characteristic of wild-type cofilin, but does not activate subunit dissociation. The results suggest a two-site binding to filaments, initiated by association through the loop site, followed by interaction with the adjacent subunit through the "helix" site at the opposite end of the molecule. Together, these interactions induce twist and fragmentation of filaments, but the twist change itself is not responsible for the enhanced rate of actin subunit release from filaments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Actins / chemistry*
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Allosteric Site
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Biopolymers / chemistry
  • Biopolymers / metabolism
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / chemistry
  • Microfilament Proteins / genetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Point Mutation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Thermodynamics


  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Actins
  • Biopolymers
  • Microfilament Proteins