The actin cytoskeleton has the unique capability of integrating signaling and structural elements to regulate cell function. We have examined the ability of actin stress fiber disassembly to induce lens cell differentiation and the role of actin filaments in promoting lens cell survival. Three-dimensional mapping of basal actin filaments in the intact lens revealed that stress fibers were disassembled just as lens epithelial cells initiated their differentiation in vivo. Experimental disassembly of actin stress fibers in cultured lens epithelial cells with either the ROCK inhibitor Y-27632, which destabilizes stress fibers, or the actin depolymerizing drug cytochalasin D induced expression of lens cell differentiation markers. Significantly, short-term disassembly of actin stress fibers in lens epithelial cells by cytochalasin D was sufficient to signal lens cell differentiation. As differentiation proceeds, lens fiber cells assemble actin into cortical filaments. Both the actin stress fibers in lens epithelial cells and the cortical actin filaments in lens fiber cells were found to be necessary for cell survival. Sustained cytochalasin D treatment of undifferentiated lens epithelial cells suppressed Bcl-2 expression and the cells ultimately succumbed to apoptotic cell death. Inhibition of Rac-dependent cortical actin organization induced apoptosis of differentiating lens fiber cells. Our results demonstrate that disassembly of actin stress fibers induced lens cell differentiation, and that actin filaments provide an essential survival signal to both lens epithelial cells and differentiating lens fiber cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology