The F-actin-binding protein cortactin is an important regulator of cytoskeletal dynamics, and a prominent target of various tyrosine kinases. Tyrosine phosphorylation of cortactin has been suggested to reduce its F-actin cross-linking capability. In the present study, we investigated whether a reciprocal relationship exists, i.e. whether the polymerization state of actin impacts on the cortactin tyrosine phosphorylation. Actin depolymerization by LB (latrunculin B) induced robust phosphorylation of C-terminal tyrosine residues of cortactin. In contrast, F-actin stabilization by jasplakinolide, which redistributed cortactin to F-actin-containing patches, prevented cortactin phosphorylation triggered by hypertonic stress or LB. Using cell lines deficient in candidate tyrosine kinases, we found that the F-actin depolymerization-induced cortactin phosphorylation was mediated by the Fyn/Fer kinase pathway, independent of Src and c-Abl. LB caused modest Fer activation and strongly facilitated the association between Fer and cortactin. Interestingly, the F-actin-binding region within the cortactin N-terminus was essential for the efficient phosphorylation of C-terminal tyrosine residues. Investigating the structural requirements for the Fer–cortactin association, we found that (i) phosphorylation-incompetent cortactin still bound to Fer; (ii) the isolated N-terminus associated with Fer; and (iii) the C-terminus alone was insufficient for binding. Thus the cortactin N-terminus participates in the Fer–cortactin interaction, which cannot be fully due to the binding of the Fer Src homology 2 domain to C-terminal tyrosine residues of cortactin. Taken together, F-actin stabilization prevents cortactin tyrosine phosphorylation, whereas depolymerization promotes it. Depolymerization-induced phosphorylation is mediated by Fer, and requires the actin-binding domain of cortactin. These results define a novel F-actin-dependent pathway that may serve as a feedback mechanism during cytoskeleton remodelling.

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