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C R Biol. 2003 Feb;326(2):161-70.

Actin-based motility as a self-organized system: mechanism and reconstitution in vitro.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'enzymologie et biochimie structurales, CNRS, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France. carlier@lebs.cnrs-gif.fr


Site-directed actin polymerisation in response to signalling is responsible for the formation of cell protrusions. These elementary 'actin-based motility processes' are involved in cell locomotion, cell metastasis, organ morphogenesis and microbial pathogenesis. We have reconstituted actin-based propulsive movement of particles of various sizes and geometries (rods, microspheres) in a minimum motility medium containing five pure proteins. The ATP-supported treadmilling of actin filaments, regulated by Actin Depolymerizing Factor (ADF/cofilin), profilin and capping proteins provides the thermodynamic basis for sustained actin-based movement. Local activation of Arp2/3 complex at the surface of the particle promotes autocatalytic barbed end branching of filaments, generating a polarized arborescent array. Barbed end growth of branched filaments against the surface generates a propulsive force and is eventually arrested by capping proteins. Understanding the mechanism of actin-based movement requires elucidation of the biochemical properties and mode of action of Arp2/3 complex in filament branching, in particular the role of ATP binding and hydrolysis in Arp2/3, and a physical analysis of the movement of functionalised particles. Because the functionalisation of the particle by an activator of Arp2/3 complex (N-WASP or the Listeria protein ActA) and the concentrations of effectors in the medium are controlled, the reconstituted motility assay allows an analysis of the mechanism of force production at the mesoscopic and molecular levels.

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