3D microscope image showing separation of actin isoforms in a cluster of cells. The uppermost layer (stained red) consists of gamma actin, whilst the base and edges display beta actin (green), which illustrates that gamma actin prefers to form rigid networks near the cell’s apex while beta actin preferentially forms parallel bundles with a distinct organizational pattern. Photo: Andreas Janshoff

Big impacts from small changes in cell

Research at Göttingen and Warwick Universities reveals how filament interactions affect cellular networks
Tiny things matter – for instance, one amino acid can completely alter the architecture of the cell. Researchers at the Universities of Göttingen and Warwick investigated the structure and mechanics of the main component of the cytoskeleton of the cell: a protein known as actin. Actin is found in all living cells where it has a range of important functions – from muscle contraction to cell signalling and cell shape. This protein comes in two different varieties termed “isoforms”, which are known as gamma actin and beta actin. The difference between the two proteins is miniscule, only a few amino acids at just one part of the molecule vary. Yet this small change has a big impact on the cell. In nature, normally only mixtures of the two isoforms are found. In their study, the researchers separated out the two isoforms and analyzed them individually. The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Link to the press release article