Severe Molecular Defects Exhibited by the R179H Mutation in Human Vascular Smooth Muscle {alpha}-Actin [Protein Structure and Folding]

August 22nd, 2016 by Lu, H., Fagnant, P. M., Krementsova, E. B., Trybus, K. M.

Mutations in vascular smooth muscle α-actin (SM α-actin), encoded by ACTA2, are the most common cause of familial thoracic aortic aneurysms that lead to dissection (TAAD). The R179H mutation has a poor patient prognosis, and is unique in causing multisystemic smooth muscle dysfunction (1). Here we characterize this mutation in expressed human SM α-actin. R179H actin shows severe polymerization defects, with a 40-fold higher critical concentration for assembly than WT SM α-actin, driven by a high disassembly rate. The mutant filaments are more readily severed by cofilin. Both defects are attenuated by copolymerization with WT. The R179H monomer binds more tightly to profilin, and formin binding suppresses nucleation and slows polymerization rates. Linear filaments will thus not be readily formed, and cells expressing R179H actin will likely have increased levels of monomeric G-actin. The co-transcription factor myocardin-related transcription factor-A (MRTF-A), which affects cellular phenotype, binds R179H actin with less cooperativity than WT actin. Smooth muscle myosin moves R179H filaments more slowly than WT, even when copolymerized with equimolar amounts of WT. The marked decrease in the ability to form filaments may contribute to the poor patient prognosis, and explain why R179H disrupts even visceral smooth muscle cell function where the SM α-actin isoform is present in low amounts. The R179H mutation has the potential to affect actin structure and function in both the contractile domain of the cell, and the more dynamic cytoskeletal pool of actin, both of which are required for contraction.