Dynamic behavior of actin filaments in cells is the basis of many different cellular activities. Remodeling of the actin filament network involves polymerization and depolymerization of the filaments. Proteins that regulate these behaviors include proteins that sever and/or cap actin filaments. This report presents direct observation of severing of fluorescently-labeled actin filaments. Coverslips coated with gelsolin, a multi-domain, calcium-dependent capping and severing protein, bound rhodamine-phalloidin-saturated filaments along their length in the presence of EGTA. Upon addition of calcium, attached filaments bent as they broke. Actophorin, a low molecular weight, monomer sequestering, calcium-independent severing protein did not sever phalloidin-saturated filaments. Both gCap 39, a gelsolin-like, calcium-dependent capping protein that does not sever filaments, and CapZ, a heterodimeric, non-calcium-dependent capping protein, bound the filaments by one end to the coverslip. Visualization of individual filaments also revealed severing activity present in mixtures of actin-binding proteins isolated by filamentous actin affinity chromatography from early Drosophila embryos. This activity was different from either gelsolin or actophorin because it was not inhibited by phalloidin, but was calcium independent. The results of these studies provide new information about the molecular mechanisms of severing and capping by well-characterized proteins as well as definition of a novel type of severing activity.

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