Bulk cytoplasmic actin and its functions in meiosis and mitosis.
Field, C.M. & Lenart, P.
Curr Biol. 2011 Oct 11;21(19):R825-30.
Discussions of actin cell biology generally focus on the cortex, a thin, actin-rich layer of cytoplasm under the plasma membrane. Here we review the much less studied biology of actin filaments deeper in the cytoplasm and their recently revealed functions in mitosis and meiosis that are most prominent in large oocyte, egg and early embryo cells. The cellular functions of cytoplasmic actin range from the assembly and positioning of meiotic spindles to the prevention of cytoplasmic streaming. We discuss the possible use of evolutionarily conserved mechanisms to nucleate and organize actin filaments to achieve these diverse cellular functions, the cell-cycle regulation of these functions, and the many unanswered questions about this largely unexplored mechanism of cytoplasmic organization.
Intracellular transport by an anchored homogeneously contracting F-actin meshwork.
Mori, M., Monnier, N., Daigle, N., Bathe, M., Ellenberg, J. & Lenart, P.
Curr Biol. 2011 Apr 12;21(7):606-11.
Actin-based contractility orchestrates changes in cell shape underlying cellular functions ranging from division to migration and wound healing. Actin also functions in intracellular transport, with the prevailing view that filamentous actin (F-actin) cables serve as tracks for motor-driven transport of cargo. We recently discovered an alternate mode of intracellular transport in starfish oocytes involving a contractile F-actin meshwork that mediates chromosome congression. The mechanisms by which this meshwork contracts and translates its contractile activity into directional transport of chromosomes remained open questions. Here, we use live-cell imaging with quantitative analysis of chromosome trajectories and meshwork velocities to show that the 3D F-actin meshwork contracts homogeneously and isotropically throughout the nuclear space. Centrifugation experiments reveal that this homogeneous contraction is translated into asymmetric, directional transport by mechanical anchoring of the meshwork to the cell cortex. Finally, by injecting inert particles of different sizes, we show that this directional transport activity is size-selective and transduced to chromosomal cargo at least in part by steric trapping or "sieving." Taken together, these results reveal mechanistic design principles of a novel and potentially versatile mode of intracellular transport based on sieving by an anchored homogeneously contracting F-actin meshwork.
The small-molecule inhibitor BI 2536 reveals novel insights into mitotic roles of polo-like kinase 1.
Lenart, P., Petronczki, M., Steegmaier, M., Di Fiore, B., Lipp, J.J., Hoffmann, M., Rettig, W.J., Kraut, N. & Peters, J.M.
Curr Biol. 2007 Feb 20;17(4):304-15. Epub 2007 Feb 8.
BACKGROUND: The mitotic kinases, Cdk1, Aurora A/B, and Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) have been characterized extensively to further understanding of mitotic mechanisms and as potential targets for cancer therapy. Cdk1 and Aurora kinase studies have been facilitated by small-molecule inhibitors, but few if any potent Plk1 inhibitors have been identified. RESULTS: We describe the cellular effects of a novel compound, BI 2536, a potent and selective inhibitor of Plk1. The fact that BI 2536 blocks Plk1 activity fully and instantaneously enabled us to study controversial and unknown functions of Plk1. Cells treated with BI 2536 are delayed in prophase but eventually import Cdk1-cyclin B into the nucleus, enter prometaphase, and degrade cyclin A, although BI 2536 prevents degradation of the APC/C inhibitor Emi1. BI 2536-treated cells lack prophase microtubule asters and thus polymerize mitotic microtubules only after nuclear-envelope breakdown and form monopolar spindles that do not stably attach to kinetochores. Mad2 accumulates at kinetochores, and cells arrest with an activated spindle-assembly checkpoint. BI 2536 prevents Plk1's enrichment at kinetochores and centrosomes, and when added to metaphase cells, it induces detachment of microtubules from kinetochores and leads to spindle collapse. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that Plk1's accumulation at centrosomes and kinetochores depends on its own activity and that this activity is required for maintaining centrosome and kinetochore function. Our data also show that Plk1 is not required for prophase entry, but delays transition to prometaphase, and that Emi1 destruction in prometaphase is not essential for APC/C-mediated cyclin A degradation.
A contractile nuclear actin network drives chromosome congression in oocytes.
Lenart, P., Bacher, C.P., Daigle, N., Hand, A.R., Eils, R., Terasaki, M. & Ellenberg, J.
Nature 2005 Aug 11;436(7052):812-8. Epub 2005 Jul 13.
Chromosome capture by microtubules is widely accepted as the universal mechanism of spindle assembly in dividing cells. However, the observed length of spindle microtubules and computer simulations of spindle assembly predict that chromosome capture is efficient in small cells, but may fail in cells with large nuclear volumes such as animal oocytes. Here we investigate chromosome congression during the first meiotic division in starfish oocytes. We show that microtubules are not sufficient for capturing chromosomes. Instead, chromosome congression requires actin polymerization. After nuclear envelope breakdown, we observe the formation of a filamentous actin mesh in the nuclear region, and find that contraction of this network delivers chromosomes to the microtubule spindle. We show that this mechanism is essential for preventing chromosome loss and aneuploidy of the egg--a leading cause of pregnancy loss and birth defects in humans.