Septins are cytoskeletal proteins conserved from algae and protists to mammals. A unique feature of septins is their presence as heteromeric complexes that polymerize into filaments in solution and on lipid membranes. Although animal septins associate extensively with actin-based structures in cells, whether septins organize as filaments in cells and if septin organization impacts septin function is not known. Customizing a tripartite split-GFP complementation assay, we show that all septins decorating actin stress fibers are octamer-containing filaments. Depleting octamers or preventing septins from polymerizing leads to a loss of stress fibers and reduced cell stiffness. Super-resolution microscopy revealed septin fibers with widths compatible with their organization as paired septin filaments. Nanometer-resolved distance measurements and single-protein tracking further showed that septin filaments are membrane bound and largely immobilized. Finally, reconstitution assays showed that septin filaments mediate actin–membrane anchoring. We propose that septin organization as octamer-based filaments is essential for septin function in anchoring and stabilizing actin filaments at the plasma membrane.

This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at
You do not currently have access to this content.