Small, Dynamic Clusters of Tir-Intimin Seed Actin Polymerization

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The understanding of actin pedestal formation by enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) relies mainly on static ensemble information obtained from cell lysates. Here, the dynamic nature of signaling components on the subsecond timescale, which resemble phase condensates, is demonstrated. Unlike in vitro phase condensates, transfected intimin receptor (Tir) and downstream component form clusters 200 nm in diameter that are spaced ≈500 nm on average, indicating cellular regulation. On supported lipid bilayers with diffusive intimin, Tir-expressing fibroblasts formed Tir-intimin clusters even without Tir tyrosines, although Tir tyrosine phosphorylation is necessary for actin polymerization from clusters. Single-molecule tracking showed that Tir is diffusive in the clusters and exchanges with Tir in the plasma membrane. Further, Nck and N-WASP bind to the clusters and exchange with cytoplasmic molecules. Tir has a similar cluster lifetime to Nck, but longer than that of N-WASP. Actin polymerization from the clusters requires N-WASP binding, involved Arp2/3 activation, and stabilized N-WASP clusters. These dynamic properties are distinct from larger in vitro systems and do not depend significantly upon crosslinking. Thus, Tir-intimin clusters in the plasma membrane are limited in size by exchange and enhance signaling needed for actin polymerization that enables strong and stable bacterial attachment to host cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2302580
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 27 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Tir clustering
  • enteropathogenic Escherichia coli
  • in vivo single-molecule kinetics
  • phase separation
  • single-particle tracking photoactivated localization microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • General Materials Science
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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