Masayuki Onishi and Frederick R. Cross

Genetics. 2016 Mar;202(3):977-96. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.184663. Epub 2015 Dec 29.

Actin is one of the most conserved eukaryotic proteins. It is thought to have multiple essential cellular roles and to function primarily or exclusively as filaments (“F-actin”). Chlamydomonas has been an enigma, because a null mutation (ida5-1) in its single gene for conventional actin does not affect growth. A highly divergent actin gene, NAP1, is upregulated in ida5-1 cells, but it has been unclear whether NAP1 can form filaments or provide actin function. Here, we used the actin-depolymerizing drug latrunculin B (LatB), the F-actin-specific probe Lifeact-Venus, and genetic and molecular methods to resolve these issues. LatB-treated wild-type cells continue to proliferate; they initially lose Lifeact-stained structures but recover them concomitant with upregulation of NAP1. Thirty-nine LatB-sensitive mutants fell into four genes (NAP1 and LAT1-LAT3) in which we identified the causative mutations using a novel combinatorial pool-sequencing strategy. LAT1-LAT3 are required for NAP1 upregulation upon LatB treatment, and ectopic expression of NAP1 largely rescues the LatB sensitivity of the lat1-lat3 mutants, suggesting that the LAT gene products comprise a regulatory hierarchy with NAP1 expression as the major functional output. Selection of LatB-resistant revertants of a nap1 mutant yielded dominant IDA5 mutations that presumably render F-IDA5 resistant to LatB, and nap1 and lat mutations are synthetically lethal with ida5-1 in the absence of LatB. We conclude that both IDA5 and the divergent NAP1 can form filaments and redundantly provide essential F-actin functions and that a novel surveillance system, probably responding to a loss of F-actin, triggers NAP1 expression and perhaps other compensatory responses.