Phosphorylation of the regulatory light chain of myosin II (RMLC) at Serine 19 by a specific enzyme, MLC kinase, is believed to control the contractility of actomyosin in smooth muscle and vertebrate nonmuscle cells. To examine how such phosphorylation is regulated in space and time within cells during coordinated cell movements, including cell locomotion and cell division, we generated a phosphorylation-specific antibody. Motile fibroblasts with a polarized cell shape exhibit a bimodal distribution of phosphorylated myosin along the direction of cell movement. The level of myosin phosphorylation is high in an anterior region near membrane ruffles, as well as in a posterior region containing the nucleus, suggesting that the contractility of both ends is involved in cell locomotion. Phosphorylated myosin is also concentrated in cortical microfilament bundles, indicating that cortical filaments are under tension. The enrichment of phosphorylated myosin in the moving edge is shared with an epithelial cell sheet; peripheral microfilament bundles at the leading edge contain a higher level of phosphorylated myosin. On the other hand, the phosphorylation level of circumferential microfilament bundles in cell-cell contacts is low. These observations suggest that peripheral microfilaments at the edge are involved in force production to drive the cell margin forward while micro filaments in cell-cell contacts play a structural role. During cell division, both fibroblastic and epithelial cells exhibit an increased level of myosin phosphorylation upon cytokinesis, which is consistent with our previous biochemical study (Yamakita, Y., S. Yamashiro, and F. Matsumura. 1994. J. Cell Biol. 124:129-137). In the case of the NRK epithelial cells, phosphorylated myosin first appears in the midzones of the separating chromosomes during late anaphase, but apparently before the formation of cleavage furrows, suggesting that phosphorylation of RMLC is an initial signal for cytokinesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology