The cofilin-actin rod stress response is an actin cytoskeletal dynamic arrest that occurs in cells under a variety of stress conditions. Upon stress, the rapidly activated cofilin saturates actin filaments causing them to bundle into rod structures in either the nucleus or cytoplasm, halting actin polymerization and thus freeing ATP. Importantly, these rods dissociate quickly following relief of the transient stress. The rods form inappropriately in neurons involved in the progression of Alzheimer disease (AD) and we have linked dysfunctional dynamics of the nuclear rod response to Huntington disease (HD). Cofilin levels are also perturbed in Parkinson disease (PD), and profilin, an actin binding protein with opposite action to cofilin, is mutated in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The persistence of the rods post-stress suggests that critical molecular switches to turn this response both on and off are being affected in neurodegeneration. We have recently shown that the cofilin protein is regulated by highly conserved nuclear import and export signals and that these signals are required to be functional for an appropriate rod formation during stress. The ability of cofilin to form rods is required in a cell culture model for cells to be resistant to apoptosis under stress conditions, indicating that a normal cofilin-actin rod response is likely integral to proper cell health in higher order organisms. Here we hypothesize on the potential physiological function of nuclear cofilin-actin rods and why the dysregulation of this response could lead to the selective vulnerability of the most susceptible populations of cells in HD. We further suggest that learning more about this cytoskeletal cell stress response will open up new avenues for drug target discovery in neurodegenerative disorders.
Source: Landes Bioscience