In vitro assembly properties of mutant and chimeric intermediate filament proteins: Insight into the function of sequences in the rod and end domains of if

Lisa Gu, Juan C. Troncoso, James B. Wade, Mervyn J. Monteiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The factors and mechanisms regulating assembly of intermediate filament (IF) proteins to produce filaments with their characteristic 10 nm diameter are not fully understood. All IF proteins contain a central rod domain flanked by variable head and tail domains. To elucidate the role that different domains of IF proteins play in filament assembly, we used negative staining and electron microscopy (EM) to study the in vitro assembly properties of purified bacterially expressed IF proteins, in which specific domains of the proteins were either mutated or swapped between a cytoplasmic (mouse neurofilament-light (NF-L) subunit) and nuclear intermediate filament protein (human lamin A). Our results indicate that filament formation is profoundly influenced by the composition of the assembly buffer. Wild type (wt) mouse NF-L formed 10 nm filaments in assembly buffer containing 175 mM NaCl, whereas a mutant deleted of 18 NH2-terminal amino acids failed to assemble under similar conditions. Instead, the mutant assembled efficiently in buffers containing CaCl2 ≥ 6 mM forming filaments that were 10 times longer than those formed by wt NF-L, although their diameter was significantly smaller (6-7 nm). These results suggest that the 18 NH2-terminal sequence of NF-L might serve two functions, to inhibit filament elongation and to promote lateral association of NF-L subunits. We also demonstrate that lengthening of the NF-L rod domain, by inserting a 42 aa sequence unique to nuclear IF proteins, does not compromise filament assembly in any noticeable way. Our results suggests that the known inability of nuclear lamin proteins to assemble into 10 nm filaments in vitro cannot derive solely from their longer rod domain. Finally, we demonstrate that the head domain of lamin A can substitute for that of NF-L in filament assembly, whereas substitution of both the head and tail domains of lamins for those of NF-L compromises assembly. Therefore, the effect of lamin A "tail" domain alone, or the synergistic effect of lamin "head" and the "tail" domains together, interferes with assembly into 10-nm filaments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental cell research
Volume298
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004

Keywords

  • EM
  • Electron microscopy
  • IF
  • Intermediate filaments
  • Lamins
  • NFs
  • Neurofilaments
  • electron microscopy
  • in vitro assembly
  • neurofilaments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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