For a complete list of publications, please click here.

The Association of Myosin IB with Actin Waves in Dictyostelium Requires Both the Plasma Membrane-Binding Site and Actin-Binding Region in the Myosin Tail.  (PDF Link)
Brzeska H, Pridham K, Chery G, Titus MA, Korn ED. (2014). PLoS One 9(4):e94306

F-actin structures and their distribution are important determinants of the dynamic shapes and functions of eukaryotic cells. Actin waves are F-actin formations that move along the ventral cell membrane driven by actin polymerization. Dictyostelium myosin IB is associated with actin waves but its role in the wave is unknown. Myosin IB is a monomeric, non-filamentous myosin with a globular head that binds to F-actin and has motor activity, and a non-helical tail comprising a basic region, a glycine-proline-glutamine-rich region and an SH3-domain. The basic region binds to acidic phospholipids in the plamsma membrane through a short basic-hydrophobic site in the basic region and the Gly-Pro-Gln region binds F-actin. In the current work we found that both the basic-hydrophobic site in the basic region and the Gly-Pro-Gln region of the tail are required for the association of myosin IB with actin waves. This is the first evidence that the Gly-Pro-Gln region is required for localization of myosin IB to a specific actin structure in situ. The head is not required for myosin IB association with actin waves but binding of the head to F-actin strengthens the association of myosin IB with waves and stabilizes waves. Neither the SH3-domain nor motor activity is required for association of myosin IB with actin waves. We conclude that myosin IB contributes to anchoring actin waves to the plasma membranes by binding of the basic hydrophobic site to acidic phospholipids in the plasma membrane and binding of the Gly-Pro-Gln region to F-actin in the wave. 

Structural Basis of Myosin V Rab GTPase-Dependent Cargo Recognition. (PDF Link)
Pylypenko O, Attanda W, Gauquelin C, Lahmani M, Coulibaly D, Baron B, Hoos S, Titus MA, England P, Houdusse AM. (2013). P.N.A.S. 110(51):20443-8. 

Specific recognition of the cargo that molecular motors transport or tether to cytoskeleton tracks allows them to perform precise cellular functions at particular times and positions in cells. However, very little is known about how evolution has favored conservation of functions for some isoforms, while also allowing for the generation of new recognition sites and specialized cellular functions. Here we present several crystal structures of the myosin Va or the myosin Vb globular tail domain (GTD) that gives insights into how the motor is linked to the recycling membrane compartments via Rab11 or to the melanosome membrane via recognition of the melanophilin adaptor that binds to Rab27a. The structures illustrate how the Rab11-binding site has been conserved during evolution and how divergence at another site of the GTD allows more specific interactions such as the specific recognition of melanophilin by the myosin Va isoform. With atomic structural insights, these structures also show how either the partner or the GTD structural plasticity upon association is critical for selective recruitment of the motor.

Allosteric Communication in Dictyostelium Myosin II (PDF Link)
Guhathakurta P, Prochniewicz E, Muretta JM, Titus MA, Thomas DD. (2012). J Muscle Res Cell Motil 33(5):305-312.

Myosin’s affinities for nucleotides and actin are reciprocal. Actin-binding substantially reduces the affinity of ATP for myosin, but the effect of actin on myosin’s ADP affinity is quite variable among myosin isoforms, serving as the principal mechanism for tuning the actomyosin system to specific physiological purposes. To understand the structural basis of this variable relationship between actin and ADP binding, we studied several constructs of the catalytic domain of Dictyostelium myosin II, varying their length (from the N-terminal origin) and cysteine content. The constructs varied considerably in their actin-activated ATPase activity and in the effect of actin on ADP affinity. Actin had no significant effect on ADP affinity for a single-cysteine catalytic domain construct, a double-cysteine construct partially restored the actin-dependence of ADP binding, and restoration of all native Cys restored it further, but full restoration of function (similar to that of skeletal muscle myosin II) was obtained only by adding all native Cys and an artificial lever arm extension. Pyrene-actin fluorescence confirmed these effects on ADP binding to actomyosin. We conclude that myosin’s Cys content and lever arm both allosterically modulate the reciprocal affinities of myosin for ADP and actin, a key determinant of the biological functions of myosin isoforms. 

Molecular Basis of Dynamic Relocalization of Dictyostelium Myosin IB. (PDF Link)
Brzeska H, Guag J, Preston GM, Titus MA, Korn ED. (2012). J Biol Chem 287(18): 14923-14936.

Class I myosins have a single heavy chain comprising an N-terminal motor domain with actin-activated ATPase activity and a C-terminal globular tail with a basic region that binds to acidic phospholipids. These myosins contriute to the formation of actin-rich protrusions such as pseudopodia, but regulation of the dynamic localization to these structures is not understood. Previously, we found that Acanthamoebain vitro myosin IC binds to acidic phospholipids  through a short sequence of basic and hydrophobic amino acids, BH site, based on the charge density of the phospholipids. The tail of Dictyosteliumin vivo myosin IB (DMIB) also contains a BH site. We now report that the BH site is essential for DMIB binding to the plasma membrane and describe the molecular basis of the dynamic relocalization of DMIB in live cells. Endogenous DMIB is localized uniformly on the plasma membrane of resting cells, at active protrusions and cell-cell contacts of randomly moving cells, and at the front of motile polarized cells. The BH site is required for association of DMIB with the plasma membrane at all stages where it colocalizes with phosphoinositide bisphosphate/phosphoinositide trisphosphate (PIP2/PIP3). The charge-based specificity of the BH site allows for  specificity of DMIB for PIP2/PIP3 similar to the PH domain-based specificity of other class I myosins. However, DMIB-head is required for relocalization of DMIB to the front of migrating cells. Motor activity is not essential, but the actin binding site in the head is important. Thus, dynamic relocalization of DMIB is determined principally by the local PIP2/PIP3 concentration in the plasma membrane and cytoplasmic F-actin.

Structural and functional impact of site-directed methionine oxidation in myosin.
(PDF Link)

Klein JC, Moen RJ, Smith EA, Titus MA, Thomas DD. (2011) Biochemistry 50(47):10318-27.

We have examined the structural and functional effects of site-directed methionine oxidation in Dictyostelium (Dicty) myosin II using mutagenesis, in vitro oxidation, and site-directed spin-labeling for electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR). Protein oxidation by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species is critical for normal cellular function, but oxidative stress has been implicated in disease progression and biological aging. Our goal is to bridge understanding of protein oxidation and muscle dysfunction with molecular-level insights into actomyosin interaction. In order to focus on methionine oxidation and to facilitate site-directed spectroscopy, we started with a Cys-lite version of Dicty myosin II. For Dicty myosin containing native methionines, peroxide treatment decreased actin-activated myosin ATPase activity, consistent with the decline in actomyosin function previously observed in biologically aged or peroxide-treated muscle. Methionine-to-leucine mutations, used to protect specific sites from oxidation, identified a single methionine that is functionally sensitive to oxidation: M394, near the myosin cardiomyopathy loop in the actin-binding interface. Previously characterized myosin labeling sites for spectroscopy in the force-producing region and actin-binding cleft were examined; spin-label mobility and distance measurements in the actin-binding cleft were sensitive to oxidation, but particularly in the presence of actin. Overall secondary structure and thermal stability were unaffected by oxidation. We conclude that the oxidation-induced structural change in myosin includes a redistribution of existing structural states of the actin-binding cleft. These results will be applicable to the many biological and therapeutic contexts in which a detailed understanding of protein oxidation as well as function and structure relationships is sought.

Characterization of a Myosin VII MyTH/FERM Domain. (PDF Link)
Moen RJ, Johnsrud DO, Thomas DD, Titus MA. (2011) J Mol Biol. 413(1):17-23

A group of closely related myosins is characterized by the presence of at least one MyTH/FERM (myosin tail homology; band 4.1, ezrin, radixin, moesin) domain in their C-terminal tails. This domain interacts with a variety of binding partners, and mutations in either the MyTH4 or the FERM domain of myosin VII and myosin XV result in deafness, highlighting the functional importance of each domain. The N-terminal MyTH/FERM region of Dictyostelium myosin VII (M7) has been isolated as a first step toward gaining insight into the function of this domain and its interaction with binding partners. The M7 MyTH4/FERM domain (MF1) binds to both actin and microtubules in vitro, with dissociation constants of 13.7 and 1.7 μM, respectively. Gel filtration and UV spectroscopy reveal that MF1 exists as a monomer in solution and forms a well-folded, compact conformation with a high degree of secondary structure. These results indicate that MF1 forms an integrated structural domain that serves to couple actin filaments and microtubules in specific regions of the cytoskeleton.

Structural Kinetics of Myosin By Transient Time-Resolved FRET. (PDF Link)
Nesmelov YE, Agafonov RV, Negrashov IV, Blakely SB, Titus MA, Thomas DD. (2010). PNAS 108(5):1891-1896.

For many proteins, especially for molecular motors and other enzymes, the functional mechanisms remain unsolved due to a gap between static structural data and kinetics. We have filled this gap by detecting structure and kinetics simultaneously. This structural kinetics experiment is made possible by a new technique, (TR)2FRET (transient time-resolved FRET), which resolves protein structural states on the submillisecond timescale during the transient phase of a biochemical reaction. (TR)2FRET is accomplished with a fluorescence instrument that uses a pulsed laser and direct waveform recording to acquire an accurate subnanosecond time-resolved fluorescence decay every 0.1 ms after stopped flow. To apply this method to myosin, we labeled the force-generating region site specifically with two probes, mixed rapidly with ATP to initiate the recovery stroke, and measured the interprobe distance by (TR)2FRET with high resolution in both space and time. We found that the relay helix bends during the recovery stroke, most of which occurs before ATP is hydrolyzed, and two structural states (relay helix straight and bent) are resolved in each nucleotide-bound biochemical state. Thus the structural transition of the force-generating region of myosin is only loosely coupled to the ATPase reaction, with conformational selection driving the motor mechanism.

An Unconventional Myosin Required For Cell Polarization and Chemotaxis. (PDF Link)
Breshears LM, Wessels D, Soll DR, Titus MA (2010). PNAS. 107(15):6918-23.

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MyTH/FERM (myosin tail homology 4/band 4.1, ezrin, radixin, and moesin) myosins have roles in cellular adhesion, extension of actin-filled projections such as filopodia and stereocilia, and directional migration. The amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum expresses a simple complement of MyTH/FERM myosins, a class VII (M7) myosin required for cell-substrate adhesion and a unique myosin named MyoG. Mutants lacking MyoG exhibit a wide range of normal actin-based behaviors, including chemotaxis to folic acid, but have a striking defect in polarization and chemotaxis to cAMP. Although the myoG mutants respond to cAMP stimulation by increasing persistence and weakly increasing levels of cortical F-actin, they do not polarize; instead, they maintain a round shape and move slowly and randomly when exposed to a chemotactic gradient. The mutants also fail to activate and localize PI3K to the membrane closest to the source of chemoattractant. These data reveal a role for a MyTH/FERM myosin in mediating early chemotactic signaling and suggest that MyTH/FERM proteins have conserved roles in signaling and the generation of cell polarity.

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The Dictyostelium Type V Myosin MyoJ Is Responsible For The Cortical Association And Motility of Contractile Vacuole Membranes. (PDF Link)                                                  
Jung G, Titus MA, Hammer JA 3rd. (2009). J Cell Biol. 186:555-70. 

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The contractile vacuole (CV) complex in Dictyostelium is a tubulovesicular osmoregulatory organelle that exhibits extensive motility along the actin-rich cortex, providing a useful model for investigating myosin-dependent membrane transport. Here, we show that the type V myosin myoJ localizes to CV membranes and is required for efficient osmoregulation, the normal accumulation of CV membranes in the cortex, and the conversion of collapsed bladder membranes into outwardly radiating cortical CV tubules. Complementation of myoJ-null cells with a version of myoJ containing a shorter lever arm causes these radiating tubules to move at a slower speed, confirming myoJ's role in translocating CV membranes along the cortex. MyoJ-null cells also exhibit a dramatic concentration of CV membranes around the microtubule-organizing center. Consistently, we demonstrate that CV membranes also move bi-directionally on microtubules between the cortex and the centrosome. Therefore, myoJ cooperates with plus and minus end-directed microtubule motors to drive the normal distribution and dynamics of the CV complex in Dictyostelium.

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Structural Dynamics Of The Myosin Relay Helix By Time-Resolved EPR And FRET.  
(PDF Link)                                                                          
Agafonov RV, Negrashov IV, Tkachev YV, Blakely SE, Titus MA, Thomas DD, Nesmelov YE. (2009). P.N.A.S. 106:21625-30

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We have used two complementary time-resolved spectroscopic techniques, dipolar electron-electron resonance and fluorescence resonance energy transfer to determine conformational changes in a single structural element of the myosin motor domain, the relay helix, before and after the recovery stroke. Two double-Cys mutants were labeled with optical probes or spin labels, and interprobe distances were determined. Both methods resolved two distinct structural states of myosin, corresponding to straight and bent conformations of the relay helix. The bent state was occupied only upon nucleotide addition, indicating that relay helix, like the entire myosin head, bends in the recovery stroke. However, saturation of myosin with nucleotide, producing a single biochemical state, did not produce a single structural state. Both straight and bent structural states of the relay helix were occupied when either ATP (ADP.BeF(x)) or ADP.P(i) (ADP.AlF(4)) analogs were bound at the active site. A greater population was found in the bent structural state when the posthydrolysis analog ADP.AlF(4) was bound. We conclude that the bending of the relay helix in the recovery stroke does not require ATP hydrolysis but is favored by it. A narrower interprobe distance distribution shows ordering of the relay helix, despite its bending, during the recovery stroke, providing further insight into the dynamics of this energy-transducing structural transition.

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Actin-binding Cleft Closure In Myosin II Probed By Site-Directed Spin Labeling And Pulsed EPR.
(PDF Link

Klein JC, Burr AR, Svensson B, Kennedy DJ, Titus MA, Rayment I, Thomas DD. (2008). P.N.A.S. 150:12867-12872

We present a structurally dynamic model for nucleotide- and actin-induced closure of the actin-binding cleft of myosin, based on site-directed spin labeling and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) in Dictyostelium myosin II. The actin-binding cleft is a solvent-filled cavity that extends to the nucleotide-binding pocket and has been predicted to close upon strong actin binding. Single-cysteine labeling sites were engineered to probe mobility and accessibility within the cleft. Addition of ADP and vanadate, which traps the posthydrolysis biochemical state, influenced probe mobility and accessibility slightly, whereas actin binding caused more dramatic changes in accessibility, consistent with cleft closure. We engineered five pairs of cysteine labeling sites to straddle the cleft, each pair having one label on the upper 50-kDa domain and one on the lower 50-kDa domain. Distances between spin-labeled sites were determined from the resulting spin–spin interactions, as measured by continuous wave EPR for distances of 0.7–2 nm or pulsed EPR (double electron–electron resonance) for distances of 1.7–6 nm. Because of the high distance resolution of EPR, at least two distinct structural states of the cleft were resolved. Each of the biochemical states tested (prehydrolysis, posthydrolysis, and rigor), reflects a mixture of these structural states, indicating that the coupling between biochemical and structural states is not rigid. The resulting model is much more dynamic than previously envisioned, with both open and closed conformations of the cleft interconverting, even in the rigor actomyosin complex.

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