The Role of the Actin Cytoskeleton in Cancer and Its Potential Use as a Therapeutic Target

  • Simon Brayford
  • Galina Schevzov
  • Julien Vos
  • Peter Gunning


The actin microfilament network is important for maintaining cell shape and function in eukaryotic cells. It has a multitude of roles in cellular processes such as cell adhesion, motility, cellular signalling, intracellular trafficking and cytokinesis. Alterations in the organisation of the cytoskeleton and changes in cellular morphology, motility and adhesiveness are characteristic features of transformed cancer cells. For this reason cytoskeletal microfilaments have become promising targets for chemotherapy. To date, no actin targeting drugs have been used in clinical trials due to the fact that they disrupt actin microfilaments in both non-tumour and tumour cells. To circumvent this problem, actin filament populations need to be targeted more specifically. Not all actin filaments are the same and there is growing evidence that within a cell there are different populations of actin filaments which are spatially organised into distinct cellular compartments each with a unique function. The structure and function of the actin cytoskeleton is primarily regulated by the associated actin binding proteins. Tropomyosin (Tm) is an intrinsic component of most actin filaments and over 40 isoforms have been identified in non-muscle cells. Tm isoforms are spatially segregated and current evidence suggests that they can specify the functional capacity of the actin microfilaments. Therefore the composition of these functionally distinct actin filaments may be important in determining the viability of a cancer cell. If actin filament populations can be discriminated from those of cardiac and skeletal muscle based on their tropomyosin composition then this becomes a powerful approach for anticancer therapy.


Actin Cytoskeleton Tropomyosin Cancer Drug Target 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Brayford
    • 1
  • Galina Schevzov
    • 1
  • Julien Vos
    • 1
  • Peter Gunning
    • 1
  1. 1.Oncology Research UnitSchool of Medical Sciences, UNSW AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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