Formins generate unbranched actin filaments by a conserved, processive actin assembly mechanism. Most organisms express multiple formin isoforms that mediate distinct cellular processes and facilitate actin filament polymerization by significantly different rates, but how these actin assembly differences correlate to cellular activity is unclear. We used a computational model of fission yeast cytokinetic ring assembly to test the hypothesis that particular actin assembly properties help tailor formins for specific cellular roles. Simulations run in different actin filament nucleation and elongation conditions revealed that variations in formin's nucleation efficiency critically impact both the probability and timing of contractile ring formation. To probe the physiological importance of nucleation efficiency, we engineered fission yeast formin chimera strains in which the FH1-FH2 actin assembly domains of full-length cytokinesis formin Cdc12 were replaced with the FH1-FH2 domains from functionally and evolutionarily diverse formins with significantly different actin assembly properties. Although Cdc12 chimeras generally support life in fission yeast, quantitative live-cell imaging revealed a range of cytokinesis defects from mild to severe. In agreement with the computational model, chimeras whose nucleation efficiencies are least similar to Cdc12 exhibit more severe cytokinesis defects, specifically in the rate of contractile ring assembly. Together, our computational and experimental results suggest that fission yeast cytokinesis is ideally mediated by a formin with properly tailored actin assembly parameters.
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