The natural product cucurbitacin E inhibits depolymerization of actin filaments.
Sörensen PM., Iacob RE., Fritzsche M., Engen JR., Brieher WM., Charras G., Eggert US.
Although small molecule actin modulators have been widely used as research tools, only one cell-permeable small molecule inhibitor of actin depolymerization (jasplakinolide) is commercially available. We report that the natural product cucurbitacin E inhibits actin depolymerization and show that its mechanism of action is different from jasplakinolide. In assays using pure fluorescently labeled actin, cucurbitacin E specifically affects depolymerization without affecting polymerization. It inhibits actin depolymerization at substoichiometric concentrations up to 1:6 cucurbitacin E:actin. Cucurbitacin E specifically binds to filamentous actin (F-actin) forming a covalent bond at residue Cys257, but not to monomeric actin (G-actin). On the basis of its compatibility with phalloidin staining, we show that cucurbitacin E occupies a different binding site on actin filaments. Using loss of fluorescence after localized photoactivation, we found that cucurbitacin E inhibits actin depolymerization in live cells. Cucurbitacin E is a widely available plant-derived natural product, making it a useful tool to study actin dynamics in cells and actin-based processes such as cytokinesis.