Growth cones at the distal tips of growing nerve axons contain bundles of actin filaments distributed throughout the lamellipodium and that project into filopodia. The regulation of actin bundling by specific actin binding proteins is likely to play an important role in many growth cone behaviors. Although the actin binding protein, fascin, has been localized in growth cones, little information is available on its functional significance. We used the large growth cones of the snail Helisoma to determine whether fascin was involved in temporal changes in actin filaments during growth cone morphogenesis. Fascin localized to radially oriented actin bundles in lamellipodia (ribs) and filopodia. Using a fascin antibody and a GFP fascin construct, we found that fascin incorporated into actin bundles from the beginning of growth cone formation at the cut end of axons. Fascin associated with most of the actin bundle except the proximal 6--12% adjacent to the central domain, which is the region associated with actin disassembly. Later, during growth cone morphogenesis when actin ribs shortened, the proximal fascin-free zone of bundles increased, but fascin was retained in the distal, filopodial portion of bundles. Treatment with tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), which phosphorylates fascin and decreases its affinity for actin, resulted in loss of all actin bundles from growth cones. Our findings suggest that fascin may be particularly important for the linear structure and dynamics of filopodia and for lamellipodial rib dynamics by regulating filament organization in bundles.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.