Holmes et al. (Holmes, K. C., D. Popp, W. Gebhard, and W. Kabsch. 1990. Nature [Lond.] 347: 44-49) hypothesized that between subdomains 3 and 4 of actin is a loop of 10 amino acids including a four residue hydrophobic plug that inserts into a hydrophobic pocket formed by two adjacent monomers on the opposing strand thereby stabilizing the F-actin helix. To test this hypothesis we created a mutant yeast actin (L266D) by substituting Asp for Leu266 in the plug to disrupt this postulated hydrophobic interaction. Haploid cells expressing only this mutant actin were viable with no obvious altered phenotype at temperatures above 20 degrees C but were moderately cold-sensitive for growth compared with wild-type cells. The critical concentration for polymerization increased 10-fold at 4 degrees C compared with wild-type actin. The length of the nucleation phase of polymerization increased as the temperature decreased. At 4 degrees C nucleation was barely detectable. Addition of phalloidin-stabilized F-actin nuclei and phalloidin restored L266D actin's ability to polymerize at 4 degrees C. This mutation also affects the overall rate of elongation during polymerization. Small effects of the mutation were observed on the exchange rate of ATP from G-actin, the G-actin intrinsic ATPase activity, and the activation of myosin S1 ATPase activity. Circular dichroism measurements showed a 15 degrees C decrease in melting temperature for the mutant actin from 57 degrees C to 42 degrees C. Our results are consistent with the model of Holmes et al. (Holmes, K. C., D. Popp, W. Gebhard, and W. Kabsch. 1990. Nature [Lond.]. 347:44-49) involving the role of the hydrophobic plug in actin filament stabilization.

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