The ActA protein is responsible for the actin-based movement of Listeria monocytogenes in the cytosol of eukaryotic cells. Analysis of mutants in which we varied the number of proline-rich repeats (PRR; consensus sequence DFPPPPTDEEL) revealed a linear relationship between the number of PRRs and the rate of movement, with each repeat contributing approximately 2-3 microns/min. Mutants lacking all functional PRRs (generated by deletion or point mutation) moved at rates 30% of wild-type. Indirect immunofluorescence indicated that the PRRs were directly responsible for binding of vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) and for the localization of profilin at the bacterial surface. The long repeats, which are interdigitated between the PRRs, increased the frequency with which actin-based motility occurred by a mechanism independent of the PRRs, VASP, and profilin. Lastly, a mutant which expressed low levels of ActA exhibited a phenotype indicative of a threshold; there was a very low percentage of moving bacteria, but when movement did occur, it was at wild-type rates. These results indicate that the ActA protein directs at least three separable events: (1) initiation of actin polymerization that is independent of the repeat region; (2) initiation of movement dependent on the long repeats and the amount of ActA; and (3) movement rate dependent on the PRRs.

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