Nonlinear Viscoelasticity of Actin Transiently Cross-linked with Mutant alpha-Actinin-4

N.Y. Yao, D.J. Becker, F.C. MacKintosh, M.R. Pollak, D.A. Weitz

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Filamentous actin and associated actin binding proteins play an essential role in governing the mechanical properties of eukaryotic cells. They can also play a critical role in disease; for example, mutations in α-actinin-4 (Actn4), a dynamic actin cross-linking protein, cause proteinuric disease in humans and mice. Amino acid substitutions strongly affect the binding affinity and protein structure of Actn4. To study the physical impact of such substitutions on the underlying cytoskeletal network, we examine the bulk mechanical behavior of in vitro actin networks cross-linked with wild-type and mutant Actn4. These networks exhibit a complex viscoelastic response and are characterized by fluid-like behavior at the longest timescales, a feature that can be quantitatively accounted for through a model governed by dynamic cross-linking. The elastic behavior of the network is highly nonlinear, becoming much stiffer with applied stress. This nonlinear elastic response is also highly sensitive to the mutations of Actn4. In particular, we observe that actin networks cross-linked with Actn4 bearing the disease-causing K255E mutation are more brittle, with a lower breaking stress in comparison to networks cross-linked with wild-type Actn4. Furthermore, a mutation that ablates the first actin binding site (ABS1) in Actn4 abrogates the network's ability to stress-stiffen is standard nomenclature. These changes in the mechanical properties of actin networks cross-linked with mutant Actn4 may represent physical determinants of the underlying disease mechanism in inherited focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1062-1071
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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