Accumulating evidence indicates that cucurbitacin B (CuB), as well as other cucurbitacins, damages the actin cytoskeleton in a variety of cell types. However, the underlying mechanism of such an effect is not well understood. In this study, we showed that CuB rapidly induced actin aggregation followed by actin rod formation in melanoma cells. Cofilin, a critical regulator of actin dynamics, was dramatically dephosphorylated (i.e., activated) upon CuB treatment. Notably, the activated cofilin subsequently formed rod-like aggregates, which were highly colocalized with actin rods, indicating the formation of cofilin–actin rods. Cofilin knockdown significantly suppressed rod formation but did not prevent actin aggregation. Furthermore, knockdown of the cofilin phosphatase Slingshot homolog 1 (SSH1), but not chronophin (CIN), alleviated CuB-induced cofilin hyperactivation and cofilin–actin rod formation. The activity of Rho kinase and LIM kinase, two upstream regulators of cofilin activation, was downregulated after cofilin hyperactivation. Pretreatment with a thiol-containing reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger N-acetyl cysteine, but not other ROS inhibitors without thiol groups, suppressed CuB-induced actin aggregation, cofilin hyperactivation and cofilin–actin rod formation, suggesting that thiol oxidation might be involved in these processes. Taken together, our results demonstrated that CuB-induced formation of cofilin–actin rods was mediated by SSH1-dependent but CIN-independent cofilin hyperactivation. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 2415–2429, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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