Plastin 1 (I-plastin, fimbrin) along with villin and espin is a prominent actin-bundling protein of the intestinal brush border microvilli. We demonstrate here that plastin 1 accumulates in the terminal web and interacts with keratin 19, possibly contributing to anchoring the rootlets to the keratin network. This prompted us to investigate the importance of plastin 1 in brush border assembly. Although in vivo neither villin nor espin is required for brush border structure, plastin 1-deficient mice have conspicuous ultrastructural alterations: microvilli are shorter and constricted at their base, and, strikingly, their core actin bundles lack true rootlets. The composition of the microvilli themselves is apparently normal, whereas that of the terminal web is profoundly altered. Although the plastin 1 knockout mice do not show any overt gross phenotype and present a normal intestinal microanatomy, the alterations result in increased fragility of the epithelium. This is seen as an increased sensitivity of the brush border to biochemical manipulations, decreased transepithelial resistance, and increased sensitivity to dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis. Plastin 1 thus emerges as an important regulator of brush border morphology and stability through a novel role in the organization of the terminal web, possibly by connecting actin filaments to the underlying intermediate filament network
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