Eukaryot Cell 2003 Aug;2(4):778-87
Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.
Hirano bodies are paracrystalline actin filament-containing structures reported to be associated with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. However, the biological function of Hirano bodies remains poorly understood, since nearly all prior studies of these structures were done with postmortem samples of tissue. In the present study, we generated a full-length form of a Dictyostelium 34-kDa actin cross-linking protein with point mutations in the first putative EF hand, termed 34-kDa DeltaEF1. The 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein binds calcium normally but has activated actin binding that is unregulated by calcium. The expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein in Dictyostelium induces the formation of Hirano bodies, as assessed by both fluorescence microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Dictyostelium cells bearing Hirano bodies grow normally, indicating that Hirano bodies are not associated with cell death and are not deleterious to cell growth. Moreover, the expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein rescues the phenotypes of cells lacking the 34-kDa protein and cells lacking both the 34-kDa protein and alpha-actinin. Finally, the expression of the 34-kDa DeltaEF1 protein also initiates the formation of Hirano bodies in cultured mouse fibroblasts. These results show that the failure to regulate the activity and/or affinity of an actin cross-linking protein can provide a signal for the formation of Hirano bodies. More generally, the formation of Hirano bodies is a cellular response to or a consequence of aberrant function of the actin cytoskeleton.