Transfected CV1 cells were used to compare the in vivo effects of various domains of villin and gelsolin. These two homologous actin modulating proteins both contain a duplicated severin-like sequence. Villin has in addition a carboxy-terminal domain, the headpiece, which accounts for its bundling activity. The effects of the villin-deleted mutants were compared with those of native villin. Our results show that essential domains of villin required to induce the growth of microvilli and F-actin redistribution are present in the first half of the core and in the headpiece. We also show that the second half of the villin core cannot be exchanged by its homolog in gelsolin. When expressed at high levels of CV1 cells, full length gelsolin completely disrupted stress fibers without change of the cell shape. Addition of the villin headpiece to gelsolin had no effect on the phenotype induced by gelsolin alone. Expression of the first half of gelsolin induced similar modifications as capping proteins and rapid cell mortality; this deleterious effect on the cell structure was also observed when the headpiece was linked to the first half of gelsolin. In cells expressing the second half of gelsolin, a dotted F-actin staining was often seen. Moreover elongated dorsal F-actin structures were observed when the headpiece was linked to the second gelsolin domain. These studies illustrate the patent in vivo severing activity of gelsolin as well as the distinct functional properties of villin core in contrast to gelsolin.

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