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Biochem J. 2004 May 15;380(Pt 1):1-17.

Signalling to actin assembly via the WASP (Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein)-family proteins and the Arp2/3 complex.

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  • 1School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.


The assembly of a branched network of actin filaments provides the mechanical propulsion that drives a range of dynamic cellular processes, including cell motility. The Arp2/3 complex is a crucial component of such filament networks. Arp2/3 nucleates new actin filaments while bound to existing filaments, thus creating a branched network. In recent years, a number of proteins that activate the filament nucleation activity of Arp2/3 have been identified, most notably the WASP (Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein) family. WASP-family proteins activate the Arp2/3 complex, and consequently stimulate actin assembly, in response to extracellular signals. Structural studies have provided a significant refinement in our understanding of the molecular detail of how the Arp2/3 complex nucleates actin filaments. There has also been much progress towards an understanding of the complicated signalling processes that regulate WASP-family proteins. In addition, the use of gene disruption in a number of organisms has led to new insights into the specific functions of individual WASP-family members. The present review will discuss the Arp2/3 complex and its regulators, in particular the WASP-family proteins. Emphasis will be placed on recent developments in the field that have furthered our understanding of actin dynamics and cell motility.

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