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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Deuterium oxide (heavy water) accelerates actin assembly in vitro and changes microfilament distribution in cultured cells.

While deuterium oxide (D2O) is known to produce various biological effects in living animals and cultured cells, the detailed mechanisms by which it does so remain unclear. The present study was designed to assess the effects of D2O on microfilaments (MFs) via fluorescence staining of BALB 3T3 cells and in vitro actin polymerization studies. After BALB 3T3 cells had been exposed to a concentration of more than 30% D2O for several hours, stress fibers in the peripheral region became thick and distinct, while the quantity of perinuclear MFs was drastically reduced. This effect was transient and returned to the original distribution within 12 h. Cytoplasmic F-actin ( FA) also increased transiently coincident with the enhancement of stress fibers. The pattern of cell locomotion became simpler, and total locomotor activity was suppressed in a D2O concentration-dependent manner. Analysis of in vitro studies demonstrated that, when purified G-actin was polymerized in D2O at a concentration greater than 10%, the rate of actin polymerization was accelerated, whereas the total amount of polymerized actin at the steady state in D2O was the same as that in H2O controls. A gelation assay and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed that the network of crosslinked FA with alpha-actinin became denser in 30% D2O than in H2O. These findings concerning actin polymerization and FA gelation suggest that the alteration of stress fibers in cultured cells is caused by a direct effect of D2O on cellular MF dynamics.[1]


  1. Deuterium oxide (heavy water) accelerates actin assembly in vitro and changes microfilament distribution in cultured cells. Omori, H., Kuroda, M., Naora, H., Takeda, H., Nio, Y., Otani, H., Tamura, K. Eur. J. Cell Biol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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