The actin-binding protein profilin-1 (Pfn1) inhibits tumor growth and yet is also required for cell proliferation and survival, an apparent paradox. We previously identified Ser-137 of Pfn1 as a phosphorylation site within the poly-l-proline (PLP) binding pocket. Here we confirm that Ser-137 phosphorylation disrupts Pfn1 binding to its PLP-containing ligands with little effect on actin binding. We find in mouse xenografts of breast cancer cells that mimicking Ser-137 phosphorylation abolishes cell cycle arrest and apoptotic sensitization by Pfn1 and confers a growth advantage to tumors. This indicates a previously unrecognized role of PLP binding in Pfn1 antitumor effects. Spatial restriction of Pfn1 to the nucleus or cytoplasm indicates that inhibition of tumor cell growth by Pfn1 requires its nuclear localization, and this activity is abolished by a phosphomimetic mutation on Ser-137. In contrast, cytoplasmic Pfn1 lacks inhibitory effects on tumor cell growth but rescues morphological and proliferative defects of PFN1 null mouse chondrocytes. These results help reconcile seemingly opposed cellular effects of Pfn1, provide new insights into the antitumor mechanism of Pfn1, and implicate Ser-137 phosphorylation as a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Cancer; Cell Compartmentalization; Nucleus; Phosphorylation; Profilin; Proliferation.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.