Cytoskeleton (Hoboken, N.J.)

Cellular requirements for the small molecule forchlorfenuron to stabilize the septin cytoskeleton.

PMID 20517926


The septins are filament-forming, GTP-binding proteins that are conserved from yeast to humans. Septins assemble into higher-order structures such as rings, bars, and gauzes with diverse functions including serving as membrane diffusion barriers and scaffolds for cell signaling. The basis for septin filament polymerization and the rules governing septin polymer dynamics are presently not well understood. Pharmacological agents are essential tools in studying such properties of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons however there are only limited reports of a drug specific to the septin cytoskeleton. Forchlorfenuron (FCF) is a synthetic plant cytokinin used in agriculture which has been shown to alter septin organization in yeast and mammalian tissue culture cells. Here we assess cellular requirements and properties of septin-based structures induced by FCF. Treatment of the filamentous fungus Ashbya gossypii with FCF leads to assembly of extensive septin fibers throughout hyphae which is rapidly reversed upon removal of the drug. These fibers do not exchange or add septin subunits after assembly, indicating that FCF suppresses normal septin dynamics and stabilizes the polymers. While FCF-induced septin fibers do not co-localize to actin or microtubules, a polarized F-actin cytoskeleton is likely required for the assembly of drug-induced septin fibers. Thus, FCF is a potent inducer of septin polymerization and acts as a reversible stabilizer of extended septin polymers. This drug will be a powerful tool for studying mechanisms of septin polymerization and function, particularly in cell types where molecular analyses are complicated by the presence of multiple isoforms and limited genetics.