, Volume 195, Issue 4, pp 311-315

Actin and tropomyosin isoforms in morphogenesis

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 The major components of the actin microfilament system, actin and tropomyosin (Tm), are encoded by multigene families. There are at least 6 actin and over 20 Tm isoforms in mammals. The observation that isoforms are expressed in a tissue-specific manner has encouraged the hypothesis that they contribute to the formation of cell type-specific structures. Recent studies have indicated that certain specific isoforms do play unique structural roles. One nonmuscle actin isoform, β, is implicated in the regulation of cell spreading and membrane organisation. The intracellular location of β- actin mRNA has been shown to be regulated by growth factor stimulation of signal transduction pathways. Actin isoforms have also been shown to differ in their contractile properties in both muscle and non-muscle cells. Tropomyosins have been found to show isoform specific regulation in response to cell transformation. This has correlated with the view that some isoforms of tropomyosin promote filament stability whereas others are associated with more dynamic structures. Neuronal development and maturation are accompanied by dynamic spatial sorting of tropomyosin isoforms into different cellular compartments. It is now apparent that isoforms of these proteins perform different structural tasks. The challenge is now to link the significance of spatial sorting to the different physicochemical properties of these isoforms.

Accepted: 18 October 1996