Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Shaping Up Nicely

New approach allows study of cytoskeleton-regulating protein profilin

07 August 2022

Shaping Up Nicely

Actin filaments and microtubules (pictured, left and right each highlighted red, yellow or blue in three overlaid cells) are proteins of the cell’s inner ‘skeleton’ and take all the glory when it comes to giving a cell its shape and changing it. But this architecture falls apart without the guiding hand of profilin 1 (PFN1), which regulates these scaffolding-like structures. Investigating exactly what PFN1 is up to has been tricky because highlighting it interfered with PFN1’s functions. Researchers now genetically engineer PFN1 with fluorescent tags which behave exactly the same as tag-free PFN1. Cells lacking PFN1 (red) had disrupted cell shapes compared with normal cells (blue). Adding tagged PFN1 to PFN1-deficient cells (yellow) restored their shape. However, adding tagged PFN1 with a mutation found in the disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was unable to restore cell shape. Such fluorescently tagged PFN1s are therefore handy tools for studying cell structure in health and disease.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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