Septins are a highly conserved family of proteins in eukaryotes that is recognized as a novel component of the cytoskeleton. Septin 9 (SEPT9) interacts directly with actin filaments and functions as an actin stress fiber cross-linking protein that promotes the maturation of nascent focal adhesions and cell migration. However, the molecular details of how SEPT9 interacts with F-actin remain unknown. Here, we use electron microscopy and image analysis to show that SEPT9 binds to F-actin in a highly polymorphic fashion. We demonstrate that the basic domain (B-domain) of the N-terminal tail of SEPT9 is responsible for actin cross-linking, while the GTP-binding domain (G-domain) does not bundle F-actin. We show that the B-domain of SEPT9 binds to three sites on F-actin, and the two of these sites overlap with the binding regions of myosin and cofilin. SEPT9 inhibits actin-dependent ATPase activity of myosin and competes with the weakly bound state of myosin for binding to F-actin. At the same time, SEPT9 significantly reduces the extent of F-actin depolymerization by cofilin. Taken together, these data suggest that SEPT9 protects actin filaments from depolymerization by cofilin and myosin and indicate a mechanism by which SEPT9 could maintain the integrity of growing and contracting actin filaments.
Keywords: 3D reconstruction; F-actin; cell motility; electron microscopy; septins.
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