Avoiding artefacts when counting polymerized actin in live cells with LifeAct fused to fluorescent proteins

Naomi Courtemanche, Thomas D. Pollard, Qian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


When tagged with a fluorescent protein, actin is not fully functional, so the LifeAct peptide fused to a fluorescent protein is widely used to localize actin filaments in live cells. However, we find that these fusion proteins have many concentration-dependent effects on actin assembly in vitro and in fission yeast cells. mEGFP-LifeAct inhibits actin assembly during endocytosis as well as assembly and constriction of the cytokinetic contractile ring. Purified mEGFP-LifeAct and LifeAct-mCherry bind actin filaments with K d values of 410 1/4M. LifeAct-mCherry can promote actin filament nucleation and either promote or inhibit filament elongation. Both separately and together, profilin and formins suppress these effects. LifeAct-mCherry can also promote or inhibit actin filament severing by cofilin. These concentration-dependent effects mean that caution is necessary when overexpressing LifeAct fusion proteins to label actin filaments in cells. Therefore, we used low micromolar concentrations of tagged LifeAct to follow assembly and disassembly of actin filaments in cells. Careful titrations also gave an estimate of a peak of 1/4190,000 actin molecules (1/4500 1/4m) in the fission yeast contractile ring. These filaments shorten from 1/4500 to 1/4100 subunits as the ring constricts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-683
Number of pages8
JournalNature Cell Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


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