Rickettsia Sca2 is a bacterial formin-like mediator of actin-based motility

Nat Cell Biol. 2010 Nov;12(11):1057-63. doi: 10.1038/ncb2109. Epub 2010 Oct 24.


Diverse intracellular pathogens subvert the host actin-polymerization machinery to drive movement within and between cells during infection. Rickettsia in the spotted fever group (SFG) are Gram-negative, obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens that undergo actin-based motility and assemble distinctive 'comet tails' that consist of long, unbranched actin filaments. Despite this distinct organization, it was proposed that actin in Rickettsia comet tails is nucleated by the host Arp2/3 complex and the bacterial protein RickA, which assemble branched actin networks. However, a second bacterial gene, sca2, was recently implicated in actin-tail formation by R. rickettsii. Here, we demonstrate that Sca2 is a bacterial actin-assembly factor that functionally mimics eukaryotic formin proteins. Sca2 nucleates unbranched actin filaments, processively associates with growing barbed ends, requires profilin for efficient elongation, and inhibits the activity of capping protein, all properties shared with formins. Sca2 localizes to the Rickettsia surface and is sufficient to promote the assembly of actin filaments in cytoplasmic extract. These results suggest that Sca2 mimics formins to determine the unique organization of actin filaments in Rickettsia tails and drive bacterial motility, independently of host nucleators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Movement
  • Rickettsia / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Proteins