• α-catenin structure and nanoscale dynamics in solution and in complex with f-actin

      Nicholl, Iain; Matsui, Tsutomu; Weiss, Thomas M; Stanley, Christopher B; Heller, William T; Martel, Anne; Farago, Bela; Callaway, David JE; Bu, Zimei (Elsevier, 2018-07-11)
      As a core component of the adherens junction, α-catenin stabilizes the cadherin/catenin complexes to the actin cytoskeleton for the mechanical coupling of cell-cell adhesion. α-catenin also modulates actin dynamics, cell polarity, and cell-migration functions that are independent of the adherens junction. We have determined the solution structures of the α-catenin monomer and dimer using in-line size-exclusion chromatography small-angle X-ray scattering, as well as the structure of α-catenin dimer in complex to F-actin filament using selective deuteration and contrast-matching small angle neutron scattering. We further present the first observation, to our knowledge, of the nanoscale dynamics of α-catenin by neutron spin-echo spectroscopy, which explicitly reveals the mobile regions of α-catenin that are crucial for binding to F-actin. In solution, the α-catenin monomer is more expanded than either protomer shown in the crystal structure dimer, with the vinculin-binding M fragment and the actin-binding domain being able to adopt different configurations. The α-catenin dimer in solution is also significantly more expanded than the dimer crystal structure, with fewer interdomain and intersubunit contacts than the crystal structure. When in complex to F-actin, the α-catenin dimer has an even more open and extended conformation than in solution, with the actin-binding domain further separated from the main body of the dimer. The α-catenin-assembled F-actin bundle develops into an ordered filament packing arrangement at increasing α-catenin/F-actin molar ratios. Together, the structural and dynamic studies reveal that α-catenin possesses dynamic molecular conformations that prime this protein to function as a mechanosensor protein.