BACKGROUND: All eukaryotes with the exception of plants use an actomyosin ring to generate a constriction force at the site of cell division (cleavage furrow) during mitosis and meiosis. The structure and filament forming abilities located in the C-terminal or tail region of one of the main components, myosin II, are important for localising the molecule to the contractile ring (CR) during cytokinesis. However, it remains poorly understood how myosin II is recruited to the site of cell division and how this recruitment relates to myosin filament assembly. Significant conservation between species of the components involved in cytokinesis, including those of the CR, allows the use of easily genetically manipulated organisms, such as budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), in the study of cytokinesis. Budding yeast has a single myosin II protein, named Myo1. Unlike most other class II myosins, the tail of Myo1 has an irregular coiled coil. In this report we use molecular genetics, biochemistry and live cell imaging to characterize the minimum localisation domain (MLD) of budding yeast Myo1. RESULTS: We show that the MLD is a small region in the centre of the tail of Myo1 and that it is both necessary and sufficient for localisation of Myo1 to the yeast bud neck, the pre-determined site of cell division. Hydrodynamic measurements of the MLD, purified from bacteria or yeast, show that it is likely to exist as a trimer. We also examine the importance of a small region of low coiled coil forming probability within the MLD, which we call the hinge region. Removal of the hinge region prevents contraction of the CR. Using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP), we show that GFP-tagged MLD is slightly more dynamic than the GFP-tagged full length molecule but less dynamic than the GFP-tagged Myo1 construct lacking the hinge region. CONCLUSIONS: Our results define the intrinsic determinant for the localization of budding yeast myosin II and show it to be an oligomer of tentatively 3 monomers. We suggest that this is the minimum oligomeric unit (rather than the traditional myosin II dimer) that would allow specific assembly to the site of cytokinesis in a manner similar to the full length molecule. The flexible hinge region also contributes to CR structural integrity and contractility.
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