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Requirements for Hirano Body Formation

Paul Grifn,a* Ruth Furukawa,a Cleveland Piggott,a* Andrew Maselli,b Marcus Fechheimera
Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USAa; Department of Biological Sciences, Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois, USAb

Hirano bodies are paracrystalline F-actin-rich structures associated with diverse conditions, including neurodegeneration and
aging. Generation of model Hirano bodies using altered forms of Dictyostelium 34-kDa actin-bundling protein allows studies of
their physiological function and mechanism of formation. We describe a novel 34-kDa protein mutant, E60K, with a point muta-
tion within the inhibitory domain of the 34-kDa protein. Expression of E60K in Dictyostelium induces the formation of model
Hirano bodies. The E60K protein has activated actin binding and is calcium regulated, unlike other forms of the 34-kDa protein
that induce Hirano bodies and that have activated actin binding but lack calcium regulation. Actin filaments in the presence of
E60K in vitro show enhanced resistance to disassembly induced by latrunculin B. Actin filaments in model Hirano bodies are
also protected from latrunculin-induced depolymerization. We used nocodazole and blebbistatin to probe the role of the micro-
tubules and myosin II, respectively, in the formation of model Hirano bodies. In the presence of these inhibitors, model Hirano
bodies can form but are smaller than controls at early times of formation. The ultrastructure of model Hirano bodies did not
reveal any major difference in structure and organization in the presence of inhibitors. In summary, these results support the
conclusion that formation of model Hirano bodies is promoted by gain-of-function actin filament bundling, which enhances
actin filament stabilization. Microtubules and myosin II contribute to but are not required for formation of model Hirano

A ctin is a major cytoskeletal protein found in all eukaryotic

cells. Actin can be found in two forms: monomeric (G-actin)
and filamentous (F-actin). The populations of both G-actin and
cells by expression of altered forms of a 34-kDa actin cross-linking
protein (1618). The 34-kDa actin-binding protein is one of many
actin cross-linking proteins found in Dictyostelium (3, 19) and has
F-actin are controlled and regulated by a large number of actin- been biochemically characterized as a calcium-sensitive actin-
interacting proteins that modulate the assembly and disassembly bundling protein (2022). Molecular dissection of recombinant
of actin filaments (1). For example, unpolymerized actin pools are forms of the 34-kDa protein has revealed three actin-binding sites
maintained primarily through G-actin-binding proteins that se- (residues 1 to 123, 193 to 254, and 279 to 295), as well as an
quester monomeric actin (2). In contrast, F-actin-binding pro- N-terminal inhibitory domain (residues 1 to 76) that is proposed
teins help to stabilize F-actin structures and to cross-link and/or to regulate 34-kDa protein binding to F-actin (23, 24). A purified
bundle actin filaments into elaborate multimolecular structures C-terminal fragment (CT) (residues 124 to 295) was characterized
(3). The actin cytoskeleton is involved in many important cellular in vitro and found to possess a calcium-insensitive enhanced F-ac-
processes, such as cell motility, cell shape, cell signaling, and in- tin affinity (23, 24). Therefore, it has been proposed that CT-
tracellular trafficking. Tight regulation of the actin cytoskeleton is induced model Hirano body formation may be the result of in-
important to proper cellular function. creased F-actin binding and loss of calcium regulation (16).
Cytoplasmic aggregations containing actin and actin-binding Further studies using additional mutated forms of the 34-kDa
proteins are associated with a number of neurodegenerative dis- protein are consistent with the conclusion that activation of actin
eases and can assemble as either actin/cofilin rods or Hirano bod- binding and loss of calcium regulation are biochemical properties
ies (4, 5). Hirano bodies are large, eosinophilic, actin-rich intra- invariably associated with induction of model Hirano bodies (17,
cytoplasmic structures that contain paracrystalline arrays of 25). On the cellular level, this model system was used to demon-
F-actin (6) and actin-binding proteins (7). Hirano bodies have strate that Hirano body formation proceeds by formation of small
been described in postmortem tissues and are found primarily in aggregates, followed by consolidation into a single large Hirano
the CA1 area of Ammons horn of the hippocampus (810). Hi- body (26). Degradation of Hirano bodies in this model is complex
rano bodies have been found to be associated with a number of and involves the proteasome, autophagy, and secretion to the ex-
different neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers disease tracellular milieu (27).
(1113), Picks disease (9, 14), and Guam amylotrophic lateral
sclerosis and parkinsonism-dementia complex (8). Hirano bodies
have also been associated with chronic alcoholism (15), as well as Received 17 February 2014 Accepted 6 March 2014
general aging (5). Despite a large body of literature describing the Published ahead of print 14 March 2014
structure, incidence, and antigens associated with Hirano bodies, Address correspondence to Ruth Furukawa,
the mechanism by which Hirano bodies are formed and their re- * Present address: Cleveland Piggott, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
lationship to disease remain largely unexplored. North Carolina, USA; Paul Griffin, Meridian Life Sciences, Memphis, Tennessee,
A cellular system enables the formation of model Hirano bod- USA.
ies for studies of the formation and physiological consequences of Copyright 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
these structures. Model Hirano bodies were induced to form in doi:10.1128/EC.00044-14
the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum and mammalian

May 2014 Volume 13 Number 5 Eukaryotic Cell p. 625 634 625
Grifn et al.

The goal of this study was to investigate the formation of bands were quantified using scanning densitometry (Molecular Dynam-
Hirano bodies by probing both the biochemical or structural fea- ics Laser Scanning Densitometer).
tures required for the formation of Hirano bodies and the roles of Latrunculin B (Sigma-Aldrich) cosedimentation assays were per-
other cellular components. We describe a novel mutant form of formed by polymerizing 3 M G-actin in the presence or absence of either
the 34-kDa protein (E60K) that has a point mutation at amino 3 M E60K or wild-type 34-kDa protein for 2 h at room temperature.
After polymerization, latB was added to a final concentration of 4.5 M
acid position E60 in the proposed inhibitory domain. Studies of
and incubated for either 2 h or 24 h prior to the cosedimentation assay
E60K show that although it retains calcium-sensitive F-actin bind- described above. Cosedimentation assays were performed a minimum of
ing, it has a higher F-actin-binding affinity than the wild-type three times.
34-kDa protein and induces formation of highly ordered Dictyostelium culture growth. Axenic strains of Dictyostelium
paracrystalline model Hirano bodies in Dictyostelium. In addition, (E60K/AX2, E60K/abpB, E60K/atg5, and atg5) were routinely main-
using the actin-depolymerizing drug latrunculin B (latB), we tained in axenic cultures with shaking at 150 rpm in HL-5 medium (32) at
demonstrate that depolymerization of actin filaments in vitro and 20C. Inducible expression of either the wild-type 34-kDa protein or the
model Hirano bodies in living cells is severely inhibited by the E60K mutant protein fused to green fluorescent protein (GFP) was
presence of the E60K protein. At the cellular level, neither depo- achieved by utilizing the discoidin promoter in pVEII (33) so that protein
lymerization of microtubules with nocodazole nor inhibition of expression could be suppressed or induced by the addition or removal,
respectively, of 1 mM folate from the growth medium in cells lacking the
myosin II with blebbistatin induces a major change in the ultra-
34-kDa protein (abpB). Mutant Dictyostelium bearing a disruption of
structure of Hirano bodies. However, there was a discernible dif- the autophagy gene atg5 (atg5) were a generous gift from Rich Kessin,
ference in the rate of formation of aggregates that grow into large Columbia University, and have been described previously (34).
model Hirano bodies in the presence of either nocodazole or bleb- To induce expression of E60K and formation of model Hirano bodies,
bistatin. These observations support the hypothesis that both en- cell cultures were grown to 1.0 106 cells/ml in the presence of folate and
hanced filament cross-linking and the inhibition of normal actin harvested by centrifugation (800 g; 5 min at room temperature). The
filament turnover lead to an accumulation of F-actin that is fur- cells were washed 2 times with Sorensens phosphate buffer, pH 6.1, to
ther organized into the highly ordered arrays that comprise Hi- remove the folate to induce E60K expression and resuspended at 5 105
rano bodies. cells/ml in HL5 medium with the appropriate antibiotics for the strain.
Ten milliliters of cell suspension was used to inoculate 100-mm petri
dishes. The cells were incubated at 20C for 16 to 20 h after plating on
MATERIALS AND METHODS coverslips. Under these growth conditions, 80% of pVEII-E60K-EGFP
Plasmids. The E60K mutant form of the 34-kDa actin-bundling protein cells contained at least 1 Hirano body (data not shown).
in pVEII was generated serendipitously during construction of pVEII-34 For expression experiments performed in the presence or absence of
kDa-EGFP (27). For recombinant-protein expression in bacteria, the either nocodazole or blebbistatin, cells were harvested approximately 24 h
E60K cDNA was amplified from the pVEII-E60K-EGFP plasmid using prior to the start of induction; washed twice with Sorensens phosphate
PCR and cloned into the BamHI site of pET-15b (EMD Millipore). The buffer, pH 6.1, and twice with HL-5; and plated at 3.5 105 cells in HL-5
plasmids were sequenced to verify fidelity. on microscope coverslips or in 6-well tissue culture-treated plates to in-
Actin. G-actin was prepared from rabbit skeletal muscle acetone pow- duce the expression of E60K-GFP. Nocodazole (Sigma-Aldrich) and bleb-
der, purified by Sephadex G-150 chromatography (28, 29), and main- bistatin (Sigma-Aldrich) were present at final concentrations of 10 g/ml
tained in G-actin buffer (2 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8.0, 0.2 mM CaCl2, 0.2 mM and 100 M, respectively, and cells were examined at 3.5, 5.5, 7.5, and 24
ATP, 0.2 mM dithiothreitol [DTT], and 0.02% NaN3) at 4C for up to 1 h after induction of protein expression and in the presence or absence of
week with daily buffer changes. After 1 week, the G-actin was subjected to drugs.
a cycle of polymerization in high-salt buffer (50 mM KCl, 1 mM ATP, and Fluorescence microscopy. Latrunculin B was applied to E60K-en-
1 mM MgCl2) and depolymerization by dialysis against G-actin buffer hanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and 34-kDaEGFP Dictyoste-
before maintenance in G-actin buffer. lium cells 16 to 20 h after induction of E60K expression. The cells were
Bacterial expression and purification of recombinant proteins. Ex- dislodged, replated on a coverslip, and allowed to adhere for 30 min at
pression and purification of the wild-type 34-kDa protein and the mutant 20C. Stock solutions of either 1 mM latB in 20% dimethyl sulfoxide
E60K protein in pET15b were performed as previously described for the (DMSO) and Sorensens phosphate buffer, pH 6.1, or 20% DMSO and
recombinant wild-type 34-kDa protein (30). The proteins were purified Sorensens phosphate buffer were added and allowed to mix by diffusion
to homogeneity as assessed by SDS-PAGE, followed by Coomassie blue to achieve a final concentration of latrunculin B of 10 M or 0 M,
stain. The protein concentrations were determined by the bicinchoninic respectively. After incubation for 2 h at 20C, the cells were fixed and
acid (BCA) method (31), using bovine serum albumin as the protein stained with tetramethyl rhodamine isocyanate (TRITC)-phalloidin as
standard. All purified recombinant proteins were dialyzed against 2 mM described previously (21). Coverslips were examined on a Zeiss LSM 510
PIPES [piperazine-N,N=-bis(2-ethanesulfonic acid)], pH 7.0, 50 mM KCl, VIS/META confocal microscope. For quantitative fluorescence compari-
0.2 mM DTT, 0.03% NaN3 and stored at 80C. sons, the red-channel gain settings for E60K-EGFP and 34-kDaEGFP
F-actin cosedimentation assays. High-speed F-actin cosedimenta- Dictyostelium cells were set using the non-latB-treated controls for each
tion assays were performed as previously described (20, 21). The F-actin and held constant for recording of latB-treated cells. Quantitative analysis
polymerization conditions were 20 mM PIPES, pH 7.0, 50 mM KCl, 1 mM of changes in TRITC fluorescence was performed using ImageJ (35). Ex-
MgCl2, 1 mM ATP, 5 mM EGTA, 0.2 mM DTT. Evaluation of calcium periments were performed three times.
sensitivity was performed by the absence or presence of 4.5 mM CaCl2 in Study of the size distribution of Hirano bodies was performed by flu-
the previous buffer. The free calcium ion concentrations were calculated orescence microscopy. Samples of cells expressing E60K-GFP were fixed
using with NIST database 46, vol.8, at pH 7 and for 25 min in 3.7% formaldehyde in Sorensens buffer with 1 mM EGTA,
25C. The high-calcium and low-calcium conditions correspond to pH 7. The cells were permeabilized with acetone (20C) for 2 min. The
free calcium ion concentrations of 3.1 M and 1.4 108 M, respectively. coverslips were allowed to air dry and mounted with Crystal Mount
The solutions were centrifuged in a Beckman airfuge at 23 lb/in2 (Biomeda) on microscope slides. Images of the GFP signal were collected
(115,000 g) for 30 min. The supernatant and pellet samples were col- with a Zeiss LSM 510 VIS/META confocal microscope using a 40 ob-
lected and analyzed by SDS-PAGE and Coomassie blue staining. Protein jective. The exposure and illumination settings were kept constant for all

626 Eukaryotic Cell

Requirements for Hirano Body Formation

the sequence to that expected for 34-kDa proteinGFP. The re-

sults showed a single base change altering codon 60 from GAA,
encoding glutamate, to AAA, encoding lysine (data not shown).
Model Hirano body formation following transformation of cells
with plasmids carrying this sequence was reproducible. The E60K
mutation is in the putative inhibitory region of the 34-kDa pro-
tein, which spans residues 1 to 76 (24). The formation of model
Hirano bodies by mutant 34-kDa proteins is believed to be the
result of increased F-actin affinity and loss of calcium sensitivity
(16, 17). We characterized the mutated E60K protein to further
dissect the properties required for model Hirano body formation.
Biochemical characterization of E60K protein. For biochem-
ical characterization of the E60K protein, the protein was ex-
pressed and purified from Escherichia coli using methods devel-
oped for the wild-type protein (30). As assessed by gel filtration
chromatography, the purified E60K protein was monomeric in
solution, like the wild-type 34-kDa protein (reference 20 and data
FIG 1 Cosedimentation of 34-kDa and E60K proteins with F-actin. Binding not shown). F-actin cosedimentation assays were utilized to char-
of 3 M E60K or 34-kDa protein as a function of the actin concentration at low acterize the binding of the E60K protein to actin filaments at a low
calcium. The E60K protein () saturated at a 2:1 molar ratio (actin/E60K calcium concentration in mixtures of 3 M 34-kDa or E60K pro-
protein), while the 34-kDa protein () never achieved saturation, even at a
20:1 molar ratio (actin/34-kDa protein). The error bars represent standard tein and 3 to 60 M F-actin (Fig. 1). At an equimolar actinto
deviations. 34-kDa protein concentration, approximately 1 mol of 34-kDa
protein bound to every 5 mol of actin. In contrast, at the same
molar ratio, E60K protein bound to F-actin at 0.65 to 1. Increasing
the images collected. For all samples, fields of cells were selected ran- the total actin concentration to 6 M resulted in nearly all of the
domly, all images were analyzed, and at least 100 Hirano bodies were E60K protein being bound (2.62 M) but had only a modest effect
counted per condition in each experiment. Each experiment was repeated on the total amount of 34-kDa protein bound (0.76 M). Even at
at least three times. Hirano body sizes were quantified with ImageJ. Dis- very high actinto34-kDa protein concentrations (20:1), the
tributions of Hirano body size were not Gaussian. The effect of drugs on binding of the 34-kDa protein did not attain saturation. These
Hirano body size was assessed by dividing the range of Hirano body sizes results confirm a substantially higher affinity and maximal level of
into quintiles. The number of Hirano bodies in each size range in the binding of E60K protein to F-actin compared to wild-type 34-
drug-treated cells was compared to the control, and the results were ana-
kDa protein. To assess the calcium sensitivity, 3 M E60K or
lyzed using the chi-square test.
Transmission electron microscopy. Transmission electron micros-
34-kDa protein was mixed with 3 M F-actin at a low or high
copy (TEM) was used to determine the structures of Hirano bodies calcium concentration. More of the E60K protein bound to
formed by E60K protein expressed in Dictyostelium. Dictyostelium cells F-actin at both low and high calcium concentrations, as shown
were prepared for TEM as previously described (36). Cells were embedded in Table 1. The binding of the E60K and 34-kDa proteins to
in EMbed 812 (Electron Microscopy Sciences), sectioned using either an F-actin in the presence of a high calcium concentration was
RMC 5000 or MT-X ultramicrotome (RMC Products, Boeckeler Instru- slightly more than half that observed with low calcium in both
ments, Inc.) with a diamond knife, and stained with uranyl acetate and cases. Thus, the E60K protein exhibits activated F-actin bind-
lead citrate. Specimens were examined by transmission electron micros- ing, but unlike other modified 34-kDa proteins with activated
copy using a JEOL 1200 EX equipped with a Gatan detector. actin binding that induce formation of Hirano bodies, the
F-actin solutions were negatively stained with 2% uranyl acetate and
E60K protein retains calcium sensitivity.
visualized using a JEOL 100 CXII transmission electron microscope op-
erating at 80 kV as previously described (24). G-actin (10 M) was po-
Stabilization of actin filaments to latrunculin B-induced de-
lymerized in 20 mM PIPES, pH 7.0, 50 mM KCl, 1 mM MgCl2, 1 mM polymerization in vitro. Full-length and truncated forms of the
ATP, 5 mM EGTA, 0.2 mM DTT at 4C overnight and added to either 34-kDa protein have been previously shown to inhibit F-actin
34-kDa protein or E60K protein to give final concentrations of 5 M and depolymerization in a concentration-dependent manner (23, 37).
2.5 M, respectively.

RESULTS TABLE 1 Determination of calcium-sensitive binding of 34-kDa and

Previous studies have demonstrated that gain-of-function mutant E60K proteins to F-actina
forms of the 34-kDa protein can induce the formation of model Concn (M) bound to F-actin
Hirano bodies when expressed in either Dictyostelium or mamma- Calcium
lian cells (1618). During the construction and characterization of Protein Low Ca2 High Ca2 sensitivity (%)b
a vector employing the discoidin promoter to drive inducible ex- 34-kDa 0.74 0.15 0.44 0.12 59
pression of the 34-kDa protein fused to GFP, a clone was identified E60K 1.74 0.26 0.88 0.24 51
that showed large aggregates of GFP that colocalized with rhod- a
Solutions of 3 M F-actin and 3 M 34-kDa or E60K protein were cosedimented
amine-phalloidin staining and appeared similar to model Hirano under low- or high-calcium conditions (free calcium ion concentrations of 1.4 108
M or 3.1 M, respectively). The E60K protein had calcium-sensitive F-actin binding
bodies. Since model Hirano bodies are not induced by expression similar to that of the 34-kDa protein. More of the E60k protein was bound to F-actin
of the wild-type 34-kDa protein alone or fused to GFP (25), we under high- and low-calcium conditions (P 0.001).
isolated and sequenced the plasmid from these cells and compared b
Sensitivity (high Ca2/low Ca2) 100.

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Grifn et al.

TABLE 2 Concentrations of F-actin sedimented in the presence of either 34-kDa or E60K protein and of 4.5 M latB for 2 or 24 h
Concn of F-actin (M)
Time in presence latB (% 34-kDa 34-kDa latB (% E60K E60K latB (%
of latB (h) latB depolymerized) latB depolymerized) latB depolymerized)
2 2.36 0.21 0.53 0.24 (78) 2.38 0.11 1.53 0.06 (36) 2.52 0.10 2.60 0.22 (0)
24 2.32 0.11 0.27 0.14 (88) 1.63 0.06 (31) 2.48 0.18 (2)

The 34-kDa protein affects the off rate of actin monomers from E60K protein cross-links and bundles F-actin. The 34-kDa
the ends of actin filaments but does not cap the ends, since the protein cross-links and bundles F-actin (20, 21). The ability of
critical concentration is not altered (37). The observation that E60K protein to cross-link and bundle actin filaments was exam-
the E60K protein had an increased affinity for F-actin compared to ined by negative-stain transmission electron microscopy. Both the
the wild-type 34-kDa protein led us to determine the effect on 34-kDa protein and the E60K protein cross-linked and bundled
F-actin depolymerization. F-actin was effectively depolymerized F-actin (Fig. 2). The bundles of actin cross-linked by E60K re-
in the presence of latB, as shown in Table 2. The presence of the vealed more cross-striations than those formed with the wild-type
34-kDa protein partially inhibited latB-induced depolymerization 34-kDa protein, likely due to higher ordering and occupancy of
in vitro. In contrast, the E60K protein completely inhibited depo- cross-link sites reflecting the higher stoichiometry of binding.
lymerization with no significant change in the F-actin concentra- E60K protein expression leads to Hirano body formation.
tion after either 2 or 24 h in the presence of latB. Thus, the higher The observation that E60K protein cross-links and bundles F-ac-
affinity of E60K for F-actin correlates with the ability to inhibit tin together with the gain-of-function F-actin binding was consis-
depolymerization by effectively decreasing the off rate of the actin tent with other mutant forms of the 34-kDa protein that formed
monomer from the filament. model Hirano bodies. The E60K protein was tested for the ability

FIG 2 Transmission electron micrographs of solutions of F-actin and either the 34-kDa protein or the E60K protein. (A) F-actin. (B and D) F-actin and 34-kDa
protein. (C and E) F-actin and E60K protein. The E60K protein bundles F-actin similarly to the actin-bundling property of the wild-type 34-kDa protein and
appears to show more cross-striations. Scale bars 250 nm (A, B, and C) and 100 nm (D and E).

628 Eukaryotic Cell

Requirements for Hirano Body Formation

FIG 3 Expression of E60K-GFP protein in abpB Dictyostelium cells leads to

the formation of model Hirano bodies. Dictyostelium cells were transformed
with plasmid to express the E60K protein or the 34-kDa protein fused to GFP.
Cells were examined by differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy
(left) and by fluorescence microscopy using either GFP (middle) or TRITC-
phalloidin (right). (A) Control cells expressing 34-kDaEGFP do not contain
Hirano bodies. (B) In contrast, E60K-EGFP-expressing cells contain large Hi-
rano bodies. Scale bar 10 m.
FIG 4 Transmission electron micrographs of E60K-EGFP-expressing abpB
Dictyostelium cells with model Hirano bodies. (A) Transmission electron
micrograph of a cell expressing E60K protein with model Hirano bodies. The
to form model Hirano bodies in Dictyostelium lacking the wild- model Hirano bodies (HB) are distinct from the electron-dense nuclear ma-
type 34-kDa protein (abpB). terial (Nuc). Scale bars 1 m (A) and 50 nm (B and C).
E60K-EGFP localized in large punctate structures located
within the cytoplasm (Fig. 3). The colocalization of E60K-EGFP
and F-actin within the structures is consistent with the presence of phalloidin staining of latB E60K-EGFP cells shows an overall 43%
model Hirano bodies seen in previous studies done with other decrease in cytoplasmic F-actin, significantly less than that ob-
mutant forms of the 34-kDa protein (16, 17). Hirano bodies are served in latB-treated 34-kDaEGFP cells (Fig. 5F and H and Ta-
defined by their hallmark ultrastructural appearance, which is ob- ble 3). Measurements of TRITC-phalloidin fluorescence levels
served both in Hirano bodies in the brain and in model Hirano contained within the model Hirano bodies in the presence and
bodies in cell cultures (5, 1618, 38). F-actin filaments are ar- absence of latB showed that only 31% of the F-actin in model
ranged into a paracrystalline structure that appears as a filament Hirano bodies was susceptible to depolymerization by latB (Table
array with a center-to-center filament spacing of 10 to 12 nm or as 3). These results show that F-actin within model Hirano bodies is
a herringbone structure, depending on the plane of the section. less susceptible to disassembly by latB, consistent with the hypoth-
Transmission electron microscopy was used to examine Dictyoste- esis that increased stability of actin filaments is a property of Hi-
lium cells expressing E60K-EGFP, as shown in Fig. 4. Large inclu- rano bodies that contributes to the formation and assembly of
sions with the hallmark characteristics of F-actin within Hirano these structures.
bodies are observed. The E60K protein with the gain-of-function Role of the cytoskeleton in the formation and degradation of
F-actin binding causes the formation of model Hirano bodies. model Hirano bodies. Cytoskeletal structures can contribute to
This result is consistent with other 34-kDa protein gain-of-func- the formation and degradation of Hirano bodies in a variety of
tion mutants that induce formation of model Hirano bodies. ways. In order to determine the contributions of the microtubule
Hirano bodies are resistant to latrunculin B drug treatment. and actin cytoskeleton to the formation and degradation of model
It is known that latB treatment of Dictyostelium induces the depo- Hirano bodies in Dictyostelium, an inducible discoidin promoter
lymerization of the actin cytoskeleton, and latB has been used in (pVEII) (33) was utilized to drive the expression of E60K-EGFP
numerous studies to examine the role of actin in such cell pro- and to establish an approximate start time for Hirano body for-
cesses as endocytosis, cell motility, and regulation of contractile mation. A Dictyostelium autophagy knockout mutant, atg5 (34),
vacuoles (3941). Since the E60K protein reduced F-actin depo- was utilized to slow or delay the degradation of Hirano bodies by
lymerization in vitro by latB, and since Hirano bodies are com- the autophagy pathway (27) and to focus on events during the
posed primarily of actin filaments (5, 7), we used latB to compare formation of Hirano bodies.
the stability of actin filaments in model Hirano bodies to the other Chemical inhibitors were utilized to probe the roles of micro-
actin filaments in the cell. The 34-kDaEGFP cells with no latB tubules and myosin II in model Hirano body formation. Micro-
treatment had normal cortical 34-kDa protein localization and tubules were depolymerized with nocodazole, the most effective
colocalization with F-actin, as detected by TRITC-phalloidin reagent in Dictyostelium (42). Model Hirano bodies in Dictyoste-
staining (Fig. 5A and B). The E60K-EGFP cells without latB con- lium are highly enriched for myosin II, but not myosin I (16).
tained large model Hirano bodies that were enriched in E60K- Myosin II function was inhibited with blebbistatin, a specific in-
EGFP and F-actin (Fig. 5E and F). latB treatment of 34-kDaEGFP hibitor of nonmuscle myosin II (43) whose activity has been doc-
cells caused a 77% decrease in F-actin content, as assessed by the umented in Dictyostelium (44). The model Hirano body area was
decrease in TRITC-phalloidin staining (Fig. 5D and Table 3). The measured by fluorescence microscopy at 3.5, 5.5, 7.5, and 24 h
34-kDaEGFP fluorescence levels remained high, but the cellular after the removal of folate from the media to induce the expression
distribution of the 34-kDa protein appeared to be diffusely dis- of the E60K-GFP protein in atg5 cells. Model Hirano bodies were
tributed in the cytoplasm, indicating that it was no longer local- able to form under all experimental conditions, and all three con-
ized in the F-actin cytoskeleton (Fig. 5C). In contrast, E60K-EGFP ditions involved very dispersed size distributions in the Hirano
cells in the presence of latB had E60K-EGFP localization similar to body area (Fig. 6A to D and Table 4). The efficacy of the drugs was
that in the absence of latB, as shown in Fig. 5E and G. TRITC- confirmed by observation of cell rounding and decrease in mem-

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Grifn et al.

turn is smaller than those formed in the presence of blebbistatin.

This is in contrast to the results at 3.5 and 5.5 h. Since the distri-
bution of model Hirano body sizes was highly skewed and differ-
ent for each time and condition, comparison of the size frequency
distribution in the presence of either blebbistatin or nocodazole to
the control was performed by chi-square analysis, as shown in
Table 4. The distribution of model Hirano body sizes formed in
the presence of either nocodazole or blebbistatin showed signifi-
cant differences from the control at different time points, depend-
ing on the drug. These results show that while neither microtu-
bules nor myosin II is required for model Hirano body formation,
they are both required for optimal formation of model Hirano
bodies, and they contribute to different facets of model Hirano
body formation.
Hirano bodies are characterized by hallmark ultrastructural
properties. Electron microscopy was performed at 7.5 h to verify
that model Hirano bodies were formed in the presence of the
drugs in an atg5 background. The paracrystalline order of F-ac-
tin in the model Hirano bodies is shown in Fig. 7. Model Hirano
bodies formed in the presence of either nocodazole or blebbistatin
appeared similar to those formed in the absence of drug (Fig. 7).
Model Hirano bodies formed in the atg5 background also ap-
peared similar in organization to those observed in an AX2 back-
ground. Images were collected at a variety of tilt angles and higher
magnification to gather more information regarding the structure
and organization of the model Hirano bodies (data not shown).
Consistent differences in the structure and order of model Hirano
bodies formed in the presence and absence of nocodazole and
blebbistatin or cell line could not be established.

Hirano bodies form under a wide array of stresses and conditions,
but the actual signal or process required for the formation of Hi-
rano bodies is not known. The development of an experimental
system for formation of model Hirano bodies has provided a facile
FIG 5 Hirano bodies are resistant to depolymerization induced by latB. Dic- approach to this question. Three altered forms of the 34-kDa ac-
tyostelium cells expressing either 34-kDaEGFP or E60K-EGFP were incu-
bated with 10 M latB for 2 h and processed for fluorescence microscopy. (A tin-bundling protein induce model Hirano bodies: CT (16), 34-
and B) 34-kDaEGFP-expressing cells have normal cellular localization of kDa EF1 (17), and E60K (present work). CT is a truncated pro-
34-kDa protein (A) and actin cytoskeleton stained with TRITC-phalloidin (B). tein comprising amino acids 124 to 295 (23), while the 34-kDa
(C and D) latB treatment results in redistribution of 34-kDa protein (C) cou- EF1 has a mutation in the first putative EF hand. The E60K
pled to the depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton, as displayed by loss of
TRITC-phalloidin staining (D). (E) E60K-EGFP-expressing Dictyostelium
protein has a point mutation in codon 60, which is in the region of
cells with model Hirano bodies have E60K protein localized to cellular loca- the inhibitory domain (amino acids 1 to 76), but not in the first
tions consistent with 34-kDa protein but also have E60K protein enrichment interaction zone (amino acids 71 to 123) (24). All three proteins
within the model Hirano body. (F) Corresponding F-actin cytoskeleton and show activated actin binding and cross-linking. The CT and 34-
model Hirano body. (G and H) Incubation of E60K-EGFP model Hirano
body-containing cells with latB results in a modest change in E60K protein
localization (G) and depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton (H). F-actin
contained within the Hirano bodies appears to be resistant to depolymeriza- TABLE 3 Average mean intensities of TRITC-phalloidin fluorescence
tion by latB, as evidenced by the high intensity of TRITC-phalloidin staining (F-actin) measured in E60K-EGFP- and 34-kDaEGFP-expressing cells
that persists within the Hirano bodies. Scale bar 5 m. in the presence and absence of latrunculin B
TRITC fluorescence % F-actin
(mean intensity decrease with
brane ruffling and movement in the presence of blebbistatin and Cell [relative units] SD) 10 M latB
by staining for microtubules in the presence of nocodazole (not 34-kDaEGFP 45.3 14.3
shown). 34-kDaEGFP latB 10.4 2.4 77
The mean size of model Hirano bodies formed in the presence E60K-EGFP (no Hirano body) 34.5 9.2
of blebbistatin is smaller than those obtained in the presence of E60K-EGFP (no Hirano body) latB 6.4 2.0 81
nocodazole, which is smaller than the control at 3.5 and 5.5 h after E60K-EGFP (Hirano body) 39.4 5.5
induction (Table 4). At 7.5 h, the mean size is not very different. E60K-EGFP (Hirano body) latB 22.3 8.8 43
After 24 h of induction, the mean model Hirano body size is Hirano body only 89.2 0.8
Hirano body only latB 57.2 17.2 31
smaller in the presence of nocodazole than the control, which in

630 Eukaryotic Cell

Requirements for Hirano Body Formation

3.5 hour 7.5 hr

35.00 25.00
blebbistatin blebbistatin

A. nocodazole
control C. nocodazole








0.00 0.00
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 >800 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 >800
Hirano Body Area (pixels)
Hirano Body area (pixels)

5.5 hr 24 hr
25.00 16.00
blebbistatin blebbistatin

B. nocodazole
control 14.00
D. nocodazole


% Frequency





0.00 0.00
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 >800
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 >800
Hirano Body Area (pixels) Hirano Body Area (pixels)

FIG 6 Representative size distribution of model Hirano bodies as a function of time (shown at the upper left of each panel) in the presence of either nocodazole
or blebbistatin or in the absence of the inhibitors (control). Induction of E60K-GFP expression by the removal of folate is designated time zero. Nascent and
mature model Hirano bodies had diameters of approximately 0.2 m and 2 to 3 m, respectively.

kDa EF1 proteins lack calcium regulation of actin binding, in calcium regulated, as is the parental 34-kDa protein (Table 1).
addition to possessing activated actin binding. The 34-kDa pro- However, this property is not translated into facile disassembly of
tein is regulated by calcium and can bind to the sides of actin the model Hirano body, unlike the transient cellular structures the
filaments, cross-link actin filaments into bundles, and slow the 34-kDa protein participates in. Probing the stability of actin fila-
disassembly of actin filaments (20, 21, 37). The 34-kDa protein is ments in the presence of latrunculin B shows that the highly or-
localized to transient cellular structures, such as filopodia (21) and dered actin in model Hirano bodies is more resistant to disassem-
the phagocytic cup (45), as well as the leading and trailing edges of bly than actin filaments in other regions of the cytoskeleton
migrating cells (25). The E60K protein has an enhanced ability to (Fig. 5).
bind filaments (Fig. 1), to cross-link actin filaments into highly Previous work in Dictyostelium has shown alternative methods
ordered bundles (Fig. 2), and to slow the disassembly of actin for the formation of actin aggregates. Jasplakinolide, a toxin de-
filaments (Table 2). The binding of the E60K protein to F-actin is rived from a marine sponge, induces formation of actin-rich in-

TABLE 4 Mean sizes of model Hirano bodies formed in the absence or presence of either 10 M nocodazole or 100 M blebbistatin
Hirano body size (mean SD)a P valueb
Time after Blebbistatin vs. Nocodazole vs.
induction (h) Control Blebbistatin Nocodazole control control
3.5 233.5 247.4 144.1 181.6 167.9 194.8 0.01 0.23
5.5 203.2 233.0 149.3 166.8 176.7 146.8 0.01 0.01
7.5 171.9 214.7 162.5 169.4 185.5 220.8 0.72 0.64
24 211.4 182.0 284.2 277.6 147.0 132.3 0.01 0.02
Sizes are given in pixels.
P values are based on distributing the Hirano body areas into quintiles (chi-square analysis of sample versus control).

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Grifn et al.

FIG 7 Transmission electron micrographs of E60K-EGFP-expressing atg5 Dictyostelium cells with model Hirano bodies. The cells were fixed for electron
microscopy 7.5 h after induction of E60K expression. (A to F) E60K expressed in wild-type AX2 cells. (G, H, and I) E60K expressed in atg5 cells. (A, D, and G)
No-drug controls. (B, E, and H) Cells treated with nocodazole. (C, F, and I) Cells treated with blebbistatin. The asterisks indicate the locations of the model
Hirano body. Note that panel H has portions of the Hirano body in both longitudinal section and cross section. Model Hirano bodies formed in the presence of
drugs appear similar to those formed in the absence of drugs. In addition, model Hirano bodies formed in an atg5 background are similar to those in the AX2
wild-type background. Scale bars 2 m (top row) and 1 m (middle and bottom rows).

clusions, actin aggresomes, in Dictyostelium and in mammalian cium regulation is not an additional factor. Taken together, these
cells (4648). The actin aggresomes are also more resistant to dis- results indicate that both stabilization of actin filaments by inhibition
assembly but lack the paracrystalline order that is characteristic of of disassembly and high-affinity cross-linking are required to induce
Hirano bodies (47). Jasplakinolide stabilizes actin filaments, de- the formation and maintenance of Hirano bodies in cells.
creases the rate of depolymerization and the critical concentration In the initial stages of model Hirano body formation, stabili-
of actin, and promotes nucleation of actin filaments (49, 50). zation of filaments, alignment, and bundling promote the forma-
However, jasplakinolide lacks cross-linking activity, suggesting tion of small clusters of aggregated filaments. We tested for a pos-
that cross-linking of actin filaments is an essential element in the sible role for the cytoskeleton in the formation of Hirano bodies
formation of paracrystalline order in Hirano bodies. Overexpres- using the drugs nocodazole and blebbistatin to depolymerize mi-
sion of VASP (vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein) tethered crotubules and to inhibit myosin II, respectively. A role for micro-
to endosomes in Dictyostelium produced large actin aggregates tubules in the formation of model Hirano bodies was suggested by
(51). VASP contains 1 actin-binding domain but forms tetramers the initial reports that aggresomes form by transport of small nas-
in solution and can cross-link actin filaments. Tethering to the cent structures to form a single large aggregate in each cell (52
membrane brings VASP and actin filaments into close spatial 54). Similarly, small nascent structures are transported on micro-
proximity. The large actin aggregates did not exhibit the paracrys- tubule tracks to form actin aggresomes following application of
talline order of Hirano bodies, which further suggests that not jasplakinolide (47). Our studies show that model Hirano bodies
only cross-linking, but also bundling of actin filaments, plays a form in cells treated with nocodazole but are smaller than in con-
role in the formation of ordered actin aggregates. trols. These results indicate that microtubules contribute to the
The finding that the E60K protein retains calcium regulation of formation of small aggregates and their growth into large model
actin binding in addition to activation of actin binding (Fig. 1) is Hirano bodies but that microtubules are not required for model
noteworthy, since this result shows that activation of actin binding is Hirano body formation (Fig. 6 and Table 4).
sufficient to trigger formation of Hirano bodies and that loss of cal- Our results also support a role for myosin II in the dynamics of

632 Eukaryotic Cell

Requirements for Hirano Body Formation

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