Tensin, an actin filament capping protein first purified from chicken gizzard, is localized to various types of adherens junctions in muscle and nonmuscle cells. In this paper, we describe the isolation and sequencing of tensin cDNA from a chicken cardiac library. The 6.3-kb chicken cardiac tensin cDNA encodes an open reading frame of 1,792 amino acids. Mammalian cells transfected with the chicken tensin cDNA expressed a polypeptide of approximately 200 kD recognizable by antibodies to chicken gizzard tensin. The expressed protein was incorporated into focal adhesions and other actin-containing structures in the transfected cells. To map the domain associated with tensin's high affinity, barbed-end F-actin-capping activity, bacterially expressed recombinant fusion proteins containing various segments of tensin were prepared and assayed for activity. The results of these experiments show that the high affinity capping domain (kD = 1.3 nM) lies within amino acid residues R1037-V1169. Additional studies on a shorter construct, S1061-H1145, showed that these 85 residues were sufficient for producing complete inhibition of actin polymerization and depolymerization. While this active domain is located within that of the "insertin" sequence (Weigt, C., A. Gaertner, A. Wegner, H. Korte, and H. E. Meyer. 1992. J. Mol. Biol. 227:593-595), our data showing complete inhibition of polymerization and shift in critical concentration are consistent with a simple barbed-end capping mechanism rather than the "insertin model." Our results also differ from those of a recent report (Lo, S. H., P. A. Janmey, J. H. Hartwig, and L. B. Chen. 1994. J. Cell Biol. 125:1067-1075), which concluded that their recombinant tensin has an "insertin-like" inhibitory effect on barbed-end actin polymerization, and that this activity is attributed to residues T936-R1037 (residues 888-989 in their numbering system). In our study, a fusion construct (N790-K1060) encompassing T936-R1037 had no significant effect on actin polymerization and depolymerization, even at high concentrations.
Polylysine was found to induce polymerization of muscle actin in a low ionic strength buffer containing 0.4 mM MgCl2. The rate of induced polymerization was dependent on the amount and on the molecular size of the polylysine added. A similar effect was obtained by adding actin nuclei (containing about 2-4 actin subunits) cross-linked by p-N,N'-phenylenebismaleimide to G-actin under the same conditions, suggesting that the effect of polylysine is due to promotion of the formation of actin nuclei. Polymerization induced by polylysine and by cross-linked actin nuclei was inhibited by low concentrations (10(-8)-10(-6)M) of cytochalasins. Binding experiments showed that actin filaments, but not actin monomers, contained high-affinity binding sites for [3H]cytochalasin B (one site per 600 actin monomers). The relative affinity of several cytochalasins for these sites (determined by competitive displacement of [3H]dihydrocytochalasin B) was: cytochalasin D greater than cytochalasin E approximately equal to dihydrocytochalasin B. The results of this study suggest that cytochalasins inhibit nuclei-induced actin polymerization by binding to highly specific sites at the point of monomer addition, i.e., the elongation site, in actin nuclei and filaments.