Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

First Advisor

Teresa Ruiz


Myosins and tropomyosins represent two types of actin filament-associated proteins that often work together in contractile and motile processes in the cell. While the role of thin filament troponin-tropomyosin complexes in regulating striated muscle myosin II is well characterized, the role of tropomyosins in non-muscle myosin regulation is not well understood. Fission yeast has recently proved to be a useful model with which to study regulation of myosin motors by tropomyosin owing to its tractable genetics, well-defined actin cytoskeleton, and established actin biochemistry.

A hallmark of type V myosins is their processivity -- the ability to take multiple steps along actin filaments without dissociating. However, the fission yeast type V myosin (Myo52) is a nonprocessive motor whose activity is enhanced by the sole fission yeast tropomyosin (Cdc8). The molecular mechanism and physiological relevance of tropomyosin-mediated regulation of Myo52 transport was investigated using a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches. Single molecules of Myo52, visualized by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, moved processively only when Cdc8 was present on actin filaments. Small ensembles of Myo52 bound to a quantum dot, mimicking the number of motors bound to physiological cargo, also required Cdc8 for continuous motion. Although a truncated form of Myo52 that lacked a cargo-binding domain failed to support function in vivo, it still underwent actin-dependent movement to polarized growth sites. This result suggests that truncated Myo52 lacking cargo, or single molecules of wild-type Myo52 with small cargoes, can undergo processive movement along actin-Cdc8 cables in vivo. These findings outline a mechanism by which tropomyosin facilitates sorting of transport to specific actin tracks within the cell by switching on myosin processivity.

To understand the broader implications of actomyosin regulation by tropomyosin we examined the role of two mammalian tropomyosins (Tpm3.1 and Tpm4.2) recently implicated in cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. As previously observed with Cdc8, Tpm3.1 and Tpm4.2 isoforms significantly enhance non-muscle myosin II (Myo2). Additionally, the mammalian tropomyosins enable Myo52 processive movement along actin tracks. In contrast to the positive regulation of Myo2 and Myo52, Cdc8 and the mammalian tropomyosins potently inhibit skeletal muscle myosin II, while having negligible effects on the highly processive mammalian myosin-Va. Thus, different motor outputs favoring functional specification within the same myosin class are possible in the presence of certain tropomyosins. In support of a conserved role for certain tropomyosins in regulating non-muscle actomyosin structures, Tpm3.1 rescued normal contractile ring dynamics, cytokinesis, and fission yeast cell growth in the absence of functional Cdc8. This work has broad implications with regard to regulation of non-muscle and muscle actomyosin function in complex cellular environments such as developing muscle tissue and metastatic cancer cells.



Number of Pages

176 p.