Novel roles of ADF/cofilins in maintenance of homeostasis in normal and malignant epithelial cells
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Actin cytoskeletal regulation is of critical importance for a number of diverse cellular functions, including cell motility, endocytosis, cell division and transcription. Tight regulation of actin is critical for many aspects of cancer biology and in particular invasion and metastasis. ADF/cofilins are among the most important actin regulatory proteins. Mammals have three highly conserved members, ADF, CFL1 and CFL2, which regulate actin dynamics by severing and depolymerizing actin filaments. Despite a huge literature on the roles of ADF/cofilins in actin treadmilling and cell migration in vitro and in cancer cell behavior during invasion, very little is known about their collective roles in tissue homeostasis. By employing genetic knock-outs of ADF, in conjunction with conditional depletion of CFL1 using a Cre-LoxP system under the control of the keratin 14 promoter, we were able to study the effects of ADF/CFL1 loss in vivo in the mouse epidermis. Furthermore, by generating ADF-null squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cell lines and by transiently downregulating CFL1 with RNAi, we were able to investigate further the cellular responses after ADF/CFL1 depletion in vitro. Co-depletion of ADF and CFL1 from the mouse epidermis triggered loss of tissue homeostasis characterized by abnormal thickening of the tissue, actin filament accumulation and nuclear deformation. Loss of ADF/CFL1 in cultured malignant keratinocytes also led to aberrant cell morphology accompanied by unrestrained accumulation of actin stress fibers tethered to enlarged focal adhesions. Enhanced SRF/MAL-mediated transcription fuels this uncontrolled actin polymerization which is also mediated by Arp3. Furthermore, these actin filaments are decorated with phospho-myosin light chain, which indicates their contractile nature. As a consequence, the increased intracellular acto-myosin tension results in nuclear deformation, which is promoted by the deregulated actin filaments tethered to the nuclear envelope via the linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton (LINC) complex. Overall, we describe new conceptual insight into the cellular functions of ADF/cofilins. We show that their activities are essential for the dynamic regulation of contractile actin filaments that, if left unchecked, lead to loss of cellular homeostasis and cell death promoted by loss of nuclear integrity. Additionally, the critical roles of nuclear actin and actin-associated proteins have recently started being appreciated. Thus, for the first time we set out to investigate new functions of cofilins in the nucleus using proteomics, and identify new cofilin binding partners that implicate them in novel cellular pathways, expanding our knowledge on these small actin-binding proteins.