Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 30630946
Link to DOI – 10.1073/pnas.1808830116
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 01; 116(4): 1267-1272
Rac1 activation is at the core of signaling pathways regulating polarized cell migration. So far, it has not been possible to directly explore the structural changes triggered by Rac1 activation at the molecular level. Here, through a multiscale imaging workflow that combines biosensor imaging of Rac1 dynamics with electron cryotomography, we identified, within the crowded environment of eukaryotic cells, a unique nanoscale architecture of a flexible, signal-dependent actin structure. In cell regions with high Rac1 activity, we found a structural regime that spans from the ventral membrane up to a height of ∼60 nm above that membrane, composed of directionally unaligned, densely packed actin filaments, most shorter than 150 nm. This unique Rac1-induced morphology is markedly different from the dendritic network architecture in which relatively short filaments emanate from existing, longer actin filaments. These Rac1-mediated scaffold assemblies are devoid of large macromolecules such as ribosomes or other filament types, which are abundant at the periphery and within the remainder of the imaged volumes. Cessation of Rac1 activity induces a complete and rapid structural transition, leading to the absence of detectable remnants of such structures within 150 s, providing direct structural evidence for rapid actin filament network turnover induced by GTPase signaling events. It is tempting to speculate that this highly dynamical nanoscaffold system is sensitive to local spatial cues, thus serving to support the formation of more complex actin filament architectures-such as those mandated by epithelial-mesenchymal transition, for example-or resetting the region by completely dissipating.