Genetically encoded filamentous actin probes, Lifeact, Utrophin and F-tractin, are used as tools to label the actin cytoskeleton. Recent evidence in several different cell types indicates that these probes can cause changes in filamentous actin dynamics, altering cell morphology and function. Although these probes are commonly used to visualise actin dynamics in neurons, their effects on axonal and dendritic morphology has not been systematically characterised. In this study, we quantitatively analysed the effect of Lifeact, Utrophin and F-tractin on neuronal morphogenesis in primary hippocampal neurons. Our data show that the expression of actin-tracking probes significantly impacts on axonal and dendrite growth these neurons. Lifeact-GFP expression, under the control of a pBABE promoter, caused a significant decrease in total axon length, while another Lifeact-GFP expression, under the control of a CAG promoter, decreased the length and complexity of dendritic trees. Utr261-EGFP resulted in increased dendritic branching but Utr230-EGFP only accumulated in cell soma, without labelling any neurites. Lifeact-7-mEGFP and F-tractin-EGFP in a pEGFP-C1 vector, under the control of a CMV promoter, caused only minor changes in neuronal morphology as detected by Sholl analysis. The results of this study demonstrate the effects that filamentous actin tracking probes can have on the axonal and dendritic compartments of neuronal cells and emphasise the care that must be taken when interpreting data from experiments using these probes.
Bibliographical noteCopyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
- DENDRITIC SPINES
- BINDING DOMAIN
- GROWTH CONES
- LIVE CELLS