Bending forces and nucleotide state jointly regulate F-actin structure

Nature. 2022 Nov;611(7935):380-386. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05366-w. Epub 2022 Oct 26.


ATP-hydrolysis-coupled actin polymerization is a fundamental mechanism of cellular force generation1-3. In turn, force4,5 and actin filament (F-actin) nucleotide state6 regulate actin dynamics by tuning F-actin's engagement of actin-binding proteins through mechanisms that are unclear. Here we show that the nucleotide state of actin modulates F-actin structural transitions evoked by bending forces. Cryo-electron microscopy structures of ADP-F-actin and ADP-Pi-F-actin with sufficient resolution to visualize bound solvent reveal intersubunit interfaces bridged by water molecules that could mediate filament lattice flexibility. Despite extensive ordered solvent differences in the nucleotide cleft, these structures feature nearly identical lattices and essentially indistinguishable protein backbone conformations that are unlikely to be discriminable by actin-binding proteins. We next introduce a machine-learning-enabled pipeline for reconstructing bent filaments, enabling us to visualize both continuous structural variability and side-chain-level detail. Bent F-actin structures reveal rearrangements at intersubunit interfaces characterized by substantial alterations of helical twist and deformations in individual protomers, transitions that are distinct in ADP-F-actin and ADP-Pi-F-actin. This suggests that phosphate rigidifies actin subunits to alter the bending structural landscape of F-actin. As bending forces evoke nucleotide-state dependent conformational transitions of sufficient magnitude to be detected by actin-binding proteins, we propose that actin nucleotide state can serve as a co-regulator of F-actin mechanical regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton* / chemistry
  • Actin Cytoskeleton* / metabolism
  • Actin Cytoskeleton* / ultrastructure
  • Actins* / chemistry
  • Actins* / metabolism
  • Actins* / ultrastructure
  • Adenosine Diphosphate* / chemistry
  • Adenosine Diphosphate* / metabolism
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy*
  • Machine Learning
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Solvents


  • Actins
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Solvents