Determining the differences in actin binding by human ADF and cofilin

J Mol Biol. 2002 Jan 25;315(4):911-25. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2001.5280.


The actin-depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin family of proteins play an essential role in actin dynamics and cytoskeletal re-organization. Human tissues express two isoforms in the same cells, ADF and cofilin, and these two proteins are more than 70% identical in amino acid sequence. We show that ADF is a much more potent actin-depolymerizing agent than cofilin: the maximum level of depolymerization at pH 8 by ADF is about 20 microM compared to 5 microM for cofilin, but little depolymerization occurs at pH 6.5 with either protein. However, we find little difference between the two proteins in their binding to filaments, their severing activities or their activation of subunit release from the pointed ends of filaments. Likewise, they show no significant differences in their affinities for monomeric actin: both bind 15-fold more tightly to actin.ADP than to actin.ATP. Complexes between actin.ADP and ADF or cofilin associate with both barbed and pointed ends of filaments at similar rates (close to those of actin.ATP and much higher than those of actin.ADP). This explains why high concentrations of both proteins reverse the activation of subunit release at pointed ends. The major difference between the two proteins is that the nucleating activity of cofilin-actin.ADP complexes is twice that of ADF-actin.ADP complexes and this, in turn, is twice that of actin.ATP alone. It is this weaker nucleating potential of ADF-actin.ADP that accounts for the much higher steady-state depolymerizing activity. The pH-sensitivity is due to the nucleating activity of complexes being greater at pH 6.5 than at pH 8. Sequence analysis of mammalian and avian isoforms shows a consistent pattern of charge differences in regions of the protein associated with F-actin-binding that may account for the differences in activity between ADF and cofilin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / chemistry*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Destrin
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / chemistry
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Protein Subunits
  • Rabbits
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Thermodynamics


  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Actins
  • DSTN protein, human
  • Destrin
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Protein Subunits
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate