Actin is one of the most conserved eukaryotic proteins. It is thought to have multiple essential cellular roles and to function primarily or exclusively as filaments ("F-actin"). Chlamydomonas has been an enigma, because a null mutation (ida5-1) in its single gene for conventional actin does not affect growth. A highly divergent actin gene, NAP1, is upregulated in ida5-1 cells, but it has been unclear whether NAP1 can form filaments or provide actin function. Here, we used the actin-depolymerizing drug latrunculin B (LatB), the F-actin-specific probe Lifeact-Venus, and genetic and molecular methods to resolve these issues. LatB-treated wild-type cells continue to proliferate; they initially lose Lifeact-stained structures but recover them concomitant with upregulation of NAP1. Thirty-nine LatB-sensitive mutants fell into four genes (NAP1 and LAT1-LAT3) in which we identified the causative mutations using a novel combinatorial pool-sequencing strategy. LAT1-LAT3 are required for NAP1 upregulation upon LatB treatment, and ectopic expression of NAP1 largely rescues the LatB sensitivity of the lat1-lat3 mutants, suggesting that the LAT gene products comprise a regulatory hierarchy with NAP1 expression as the major functional output. Selection of LatB-resistant revertants of a nap1 mutant yielded dominant IDA5 mutations that presumably render F-IDA5 resistant to LatB, and nap1 and lat mutations are synthetically lethal with ida5-1 in the absence of LatB. We conclude that both IDA5 and the divergent NAP1 can form filaments and redundantly provide essential F-actin functions and that a novel surveillance system, probably responding to a loss of F-actin, triggers NAP1 expression and perhaps other compensatory responses.
Keywords: Chlamydomonas; actin; algal and plant cytoskeletons; latrunculin; mutation identification by sequencing.
Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America.