Regulation of actin dynamics by tyrosine phosphorylation: Identification of tyrosine phosphorylation sites within the actin-severing domain of villin


We have previously shown that villin, an epithelial cell actin-binding protein, is tyrosine phosphorylated both in vitro and in vivo and that villin's actin-modifying functions are regulated by phosphorylation. Here as a first step toward understanding the role of villin tyrosine phosphorylation, we sought to identify the major phosphorylation site(s) in human villin and study its role in actin filament assembly. We generated a series of carboxyl-terminal truncation mutants of villin and cloned them in the prokaryotic expression vector pGEX-2T. Full-length villin and the truncation mutants were expressed in TKX1 cells, which carry an inducible tyrosine kinase gene. Using this approach, we identified a region in the amino-terminal actin-severing domain of villin as the site of phosphorylation (amino acids 1-261). Five phosphorylation sites were identified by direct mutation of candidate tyrosines (Y) to phenylalanine (F), namely, Y46, -60, -64, -81, and -256. Changing all of these sites to phenylalanine resulted in a villin mutant that neither was phosphorylated in TKX1 cells nor was a substrate for c-src kinase in an in vitro kinase assay. Using a pyrene actin-based fluorescence assay, we mapped the various phosphorylated tyrosine residues with the actin-nucleating and -depolymerizing functions of villin. Phosphorylation of any one of the identified sites inhibited the actin-nucleating function of villin, whereas phosphorylation at Y46 and/or Y60 increased the actin-severing activity of villin. Since there is significant homology between the amino-terminal end of villin and other actin-severing proteins, the results provide a structural basis for the actin-severing mechanism and help understand the relationship of phosphorylation with this function.

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