In many tissues, actin monomers polymerize into actin (thin) filaments of precise lengths. Although the exact mechanisms involved remain unresolved, it is proposed that "molecular rulers" dictate the lengths of the actin filaments. The giant nebulin molecule is a prime candidate for specifying thin filament lengths in striated muscle, but this idea has never been proven. To test this hypothesis, we used RNA interference technology in rat cardiac myocytes. Live cell imaging and triple staining revealed a dramatic elongation of the preexisting thin filaments from their pointed ends upon nebulin knockdown, demonstrating its role in length maintenance; the barbed ends were unaffected. When the thin filaments were depolymerized with latrunculin B, myocytes with decreased nebulin levels reassembled them to unrestricted lengths, demonstrating its importance in length specification. Finally, knockdown of nebulin in skeletal myotubes revealed its involvement in myofibrillogenesis. These data are consistent with nebulin functioning as a thin filament ruler and provide insight into mechanisms dictating macromolecular assembly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology