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Spectrin is a mechanoresponsive protein shaping the architecture of intercellular invasion

By Rui Duan, Ji Hoon Kim, Khurts Shilagardi, Eric Schiffhauer, Sungmin Son, Donghoon Lee, Shuo Li, Graham Thomas, Tianzhi Luo, Daniel A. Fletcher, Douglas N. Robinson, Elizabeth H. Chen

Posted 23 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/154831 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41556-018-0106-3)

Spectrin is a membrane skeletal protein best known for its structural role in maintaining cell shape and protecting cells from mechanical damage. Here, we report that spectrin dynamically accumulates and dissolves at the fusogenic synapse, where an attacking fusion partner mechanically invades its receiving partner with actin-propelled protrusions to promote cell-cell fusion. Using genetics, cell biology, biophysics and mathematical modeling, we demonstrate that unlike myosin II that responds to dilation deformation, spectrin exhibits a mechanosensitive accumulation in response to shear deformation, which is highly elevated at the fusogenic synapse. The accumulated spectrin forms an uneven network, which functions as a sieve to constrict the invasive fingerlike protrusions, thus putting the fusogenic synapse under high mechanical tension to promote cell membrane fusion. Taken together, our study has revealed a previously unrecognized function of spectrin as a dynamic mechanoresponsive protein that shapes the architecture of intercellular invasion. These findings have general implications for understanding spectrin function in other dynamic cellular processes beyond cell-cell fusion.

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