Authors: Karin Pfisterer, James Levitt, Campbell D. Lawson, Richard J. Marsh1, John M. Heddleston, Eric Wait, Simon Morris Ameer-Beg, Susan Cox, and Maddy Parsons
Filopodia are peripheral F-actin–rich structures that enable cell sensing of the microenvironment. Fascin is an F-actin–bundling protein that plays a key role in stabilizing filopodia to support efficient adhesion and migration. Fascin is also highly up-regulated in human cancers, where it increases invasive cell behavior and correlates with poor patient prognosis. Previous studies have shown that fascin phosphorylation can regulate F-actin bundling, and that this modification can contribute to subcellular fascin localization and function. However, the factors that regulate fascin dynamics within filopodia remain poorly understood. In the current study, we used advanced live-cell imaging techniques and a fascin biosensor to demonstrate that fascin phosphorylation, localization, and binding to F-actin are highly dynamic and dependent on local cytoskeletal architecture in cells in both 2D and 3D environments. Fascin dynamics within filopodia are under the control of formins, and in particular FMNL2, that binds directly to dephosphorylated fascin. Our data provide new insight into control of fascin dynamics at the nanoscale and into the mechanisms governing rapid cytoskeletal adaptation to environmental changes. This filopodia-driven exploration stage may represent an essential regulatory step in the transition from static to migrating cancer cells.