The I/LWEQ module: a conserved sequence that signifies F-actin binding in functionally diverse proteins from yeast to mammals.
Talin is an actin-binding protein involved in integrin-mediated cell adhesion and spreading. The C-terminal 197 amino acids of vertebrate talin are 45% similar to the C-terminal residues of Sla2, a yeast protein implicated in polarized assembly of the yeast actin cytoskeleton. Talin is also homologous in this region to nematode talin, cellular slime mold filopodin, and an Sla2 homolog from nematode. Analysis of the conserved C-terminal sequences of these five proteins with BLOCK MAKER reveals a series of four blocks, which we name the I/LWEQ module after the conserved initial residues in each block. Experiments presented here show that the conserved protein domain represented by the I/LWEQ module competes quantitatively with native talin for binding to F-actin in vitro. Furthermore, the corresponding domain of Sla2 binds to both yeast and vertebrate F-actin in vitro. Mutation of one of the conserved residues in the fourth conserved block abolishes the interaction of the Sla2 I/LWEQ module with F-actin. These results establish the location of an F-actin binding domain in native talin, demonstrate that direct interaction of Sla2 with actin is a possible basis for its effect on the actin cytoskeleton in vivo, and define the I/LWEQ consensus as a new actin-binding motif.