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      Phosphorylation of the Arp2/3 complex is necessary to nucleate actin filaments

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          The actin-related protein 2/3 (Arp2/3) complex is the primary nucleator of new actin filaments in most crawling cells. Nucleation-promoting factors (NPFs) of the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP)/Scar family are the currently recognized activators of the Arp2/3 complex. We now report that the Arp2/3 complex must be phosphorylated on either threonine or tyrosine residues to be activated by NPFs. Phosphorylation of the Arp2/3 complex is not necessary to bind NPFs or the sides of actin filaments but is critical for binding the pointed end of actin filaments and nucleating actin filaments. Mass spectrometry revealed phosphorylated Thr237 and Thr238 in Arp2, which are evolutionarily conserved residues. In cells, phosphorylation of only the Arp2 subunit increases in response to growth factors, and alanine substitutions of Arp2 T237 and T238 or Y202 inhibits membrane protrusion. These findings reveal an additional level of regulation of actin filament assembly independent of WASP proteins, and show that phosphorylation of the Arp2/3 complex provides a logical “or gate” capable integrating diverse upstream signals.

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          Cellular motility driven by assembly and disassembly of actin filaments.

          Motile cells extend a leading edge by assembling a branched network of actin filaments that produces physical force as the polymers grow beneath the plasma membrane. A core set of proteins including actin, Arp2/3 complex, profilin, capping protein, and ADF/cofilin can reconstitute the process in vitro, and mathematical models of the constituent reactions predict the rate of motion. Signaling pathways converging on WASp/Scar proteins regulate the activity of Arp2/3 complex, which mediates the initiation of new filaments as branches on preexisting filaments. After a brief spurt of growth, capping protein terminates the elongation of the filaments. After filaments have aged by hydrolysis of their bound ATP and dissociation of the gamma phosphate, ADF/cofilin proteins promote debranching and depolymerization. Profilin catalyzes the exchange of ADP for ATP, refilling the pool of ATP-actin monomers bound to profilin, ready for elongation.
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            The interaction of Arp2/3 complex with actin: nucleation, high affinity pointed end capping, and formation of branching networks of filaments.

            The Arp2/3 complex is a stable assembly of seven protein subunits including two actin-related proteins (Arp2 and Arp3) and five novel proteins. Previous work showed that this complex binds to the sides of actin filaments and is concentrated at the leading edges of motile cells. Here, we show that Arp2/3 complex purified from Acanthamoeba caps the pointed ends of actin filaments with high affinity. Arp2/3 complex inhibits both monomer addition and dissociation at the pointed ends of actin filaments with apparent nanomolar affinity and increases the critical concentration for polymerization at the pointed end from 0.6 to 1.0 microM. The high affinity of Arp2/3 complex for pointed ends and its abundance in amoebae suggest that in vivo all actin filament pointed ends are capped by Arp2/3 complex. Arp2/3 complex also nucleates formation of actin filaments that elongate only from their barbed ends. From kinetic analysis, the nucleation mechanism appears to involve stabilization of polymerization intermediates (probably actin dimers). In electron micrographs of quick-frozen, deep-etched samples, we see Arp2/3 bound to sides and pointed ends of actin filaments and examples of Arp2/3 complex attaching pointed ends of filaments to sides of other filaments. In these cases, the angle of attachment is a remarkably constant 70 +/- 7 degrees. From these in vitro biochemical properties, we propose a model for how Arp2/3 complex controls the assembly of a branching network of actin filaments at the leading edge of motile cells.
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              Scar1 and the related Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein, WASP, regulate the actin cytoskeleton through the Arp2/3 complex.

              The actin-related proteins Arp2 and Arp3 are part of a seven-protein complex which is localized in the lamellipodia of a variety of cell types, and in actin-rich spots of unknown function. The Arp2/3 complex enhances actin nucleation and causes branching and crosslinking of actin filaments in vitro; in vivo it is thought to drive the formation of lamellipodia and to be a control center for actin-based motility. The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein, WASP, is an adaptor protein implicated in the transmission of signals from tyrosine kinase receptors and small GTPases to the actin cytoskeleton. Scar1 is a member of a new family of proteins related to WASP, and it may also have a role in regulating the actin cytoskeleton. Scar1 is the human homologue of Dictyostelium Scar1, which is thought to connect G-protein-coupled receptors to the actin cytoskeleton. The mammalian Scar family contains at least four members. We have examined the relationships between WASP, Scar1, and the Arp2/3 complex. We have identified WASP and its relative Scar1 as proteins that interact with the Arp2/3 complex. We have used deletion analysis to show that both WASP and Scar1 interact with the p21 subunit of the Arp2/3 complex through their carboxyl termini. Overexpression of carboxy-terminal fragments of Scar1 or WASP in cells caused a disruption in the localization of the Arp2/3 complex and, concomitantly, induced a complete loss of lamellipodia and actin spots. The induction of lamellipodia by platelet-derived growth factor was also suppressed by overexpression of the fragment of Scar1 that binds to the Arp2/3 complex. We have identified a conserved sequence domain in proteins of the WASP family that binds to the Arp2/3 complex. Overexpression of this domain in cells disrupts the localization of the Arp2/3 complex and inhibits lamellipodia formation. Our data suggest that WASP-related proteins may regulate the actin cytoskeleton through the Arp2/3 complex.

                Author and article information

                J Cell Biol
                The Journal of Cell Biology
                The Rockefeller University Press
                25 August 2008
                : 182
                : 4
                : 647-654
                [1 ]Department of Cell and Tissue Biology and [2 ]Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143
                Author notes

                Correspondence to Diane L. Barber: diane.barber@

                © 2008 LeClaire et al.

                This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, as described at

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