Cellular functions of actin- and microtubule-associated septins

Septins are an integral component of the cytoskeleton, assembling into higher-order oligomers and filamentous polymers that associate with actin filaments, microtubules and membranes. Here, we review septin interactions with actin and microtubules, and septin-mediated regulation of the organization and dynamics of these cytoskeletal networks, which is critical for cellular morphogenesis. We discuss how actomyosin-associated septins function in cytokinesis, cell migration and host defense against pathogens. We highlight newly emerged roles of septins at the interface of microtubules and membranes with molecular motors, which point to a ‘septin code’ for the regulation of membrane traffic. Additionally, we revisit the functions of microtubule-associated septins in mitosis and meiosis. In sum, septins comprise a unique module of cytoskeletal regulators that are spatially and functionally specialized and have properties of bona fide actin-binding and microtubule-associated proteins. With many questions still outstanding, the study of septins will continue to provide new insights into fundamental problems of cytoskeletal organization and function.