Regulatory Mechanisms of Semaphorin/Plexin/Mical-Mediated F-actin Disassembly and Cellular Remodeling



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Dynamic changes to the actin cytoskeleton modify the shape of cells and their membranous extensions, and underlie diverse developmental and functional events in multiple tissues including migration, navigation, and connectivity. Semaphorins, together with their Plexin receptors, are a large family of extracellular cues that trigger complex cytoskeletal rearrangements to direct these cellular phenomena, but the mechanisms regulating their effects are poorly understood. Emerging evidence identifies Mical, a conserved oxidoreductase (Redox) enzyme, as a critical component in Semaphorin/Plexin signaling through its post-translational oxidation of F-actin, which promotes actin instability and disassembly. How this Mical-mediated redox regulation of actin dynamics is locally positioned and coordinated with the activity of other actin regulatory proteins to achieve specific, targeted effects on the cytoskeleton remains unknown. Therefore, as a part of my dissertation research, I used a genetic assay to begin to address these questions and search for proteins that could alter Semaphorin/Plexin/Mical signaling effects on the cytoskeleton. In this dissertation, I present my discovery of a functional interplay between Mical and two critical new interactors - cofilin, a well-known ubiquitous F-actin regulatory protein, and Sisyphus, an unconventional class XV myosin. With regards to cofilin, my in vivo genetic/functional assays reveal that cofilin activity is required for and enhances Semaphorin/Plexin/Mical-dependent cytoskeletal rearrangements and morphological changes. Additionally, in vitro biochemical assays demonstrate that cofilin preferentially binds Mical-oxidized actin and accelerates its disassembly. Together, these findings indicate that cofilin and Mical act as a functional pair in both neuronal and non-neuronal cells to rapidly and efficiently disassemble actin filaments. Similarly, my results reveal that Sisyphus is necessary and sufficient for triggering Semaphorin/Plexin/Mical-dependent F-actin disassembly/cellular remodeling. Moreover, using in vivo functional assays, I find that Sisyphus uses its myosin motor activity and the first MyTH4 domain of its C-terminal tail region to modify the subcellular localization of Mical. In this way, Sisyphus spatially controls Mical-dependent F-actin disassembly/cellular remodeling. Therefore, both cofilin and Sisyphus function to promote Mical-mediated F-actin disassembly; thereby, they act as critical regulators of Semaphorin/Plexin/Mical-mediated effects on cytoskeletal and morphological dynamics. Thus, my findings unveil novel molecular and biochemical mechanisms that orchestrate cellular, developmental, and neural biology.

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