Cofilin-Mediated Actin Stress Response Is Maladaptive in Heat-Stressed Embryos

Lauren Figard, Liuliu Zheng, Natalie Biel, Zenghui Xue, Hasan Seede, Seth Coleman, Ido Golding, Anna Marie Sokac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental stress threatens the fidelity of embryonic morphogenesis. Heat, for example, is a teratogen. Yet how heat affects morphogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we identify a heat-inducible actin stress response (ASR) in Drosophila embryos that is mediated by the activation of the actin regulator Cofilin. Similar to ASR in adult mammalian cells, heat stress in fly embryos triggers the assembly of intra-nuclear actin rods. Rods measure up to a few microns in length, and their assembly depends on elevated free nuclear actin concentration and Cofilin. Outside the nucleus, heat stress causes Cofilin-dependent destabilization of filamentous actin (F-actin) in actomyosin networks required for morphogenesis. F-actin destabilization increases the chance of morphogenesis mistakes. Blocking the ASR by reducing Cofilin dosage improves the viability of heat-stressed embryos. However, improved viability correlates with restoring F-actin stability, not rescuing morphogenesis. Thus, ASR endangers embryos, perhaps by shifting actin from cytoplasmic filaments to an elevated nuclear pool. Figard et al. show that heat stress induces an actin stress response (ASR) in early Drosophila embryos. This ASR is mediated by a heat-induced increase in Cofilin activity. Increased Cofilin activity destabilizes F-actin structures required for morphogenesis. In addition, the Cofilin-mediated ASR reduces embryo viability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3493-3501.e4
JournalCell Reports
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 26 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • actin dynamics
  • actin roads
  • actin stress response
  • cellularization
  • Cofilin
  • Drosophila
  • morphogenesis
  • nuclear actin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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