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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2005 Jan;12(1):26-31. Epub 2004 Dec 12.

Conformational changes in the Arp2/3 complex leading to actin nucleation.

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Department of Biology, Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.


The two actin-related subunits of the Arp2/3 complex, Arp2 and Arp3, are proposed to form a pseudo actin dimer that nucleates actin polymerization. However, in the crystal structure of the inactive complex, they are too far apart to form such a nucleus. Here, we show using EM that yeast and bovine Arp2/3 complexes exist in a distribution among open, intermediate and closed conformations. The crystal structure docks well into the open conformation. The activator WASp binds at the cleft between Arp2 and Arp3, and all WASp-bound complexes are closed. The inhibitor coronin binds near the p35 subunit, and all coronin-bound complexes are open. Activating and loss-of-function mutations in the p35 subunit skew conformational distribution in opposite directions, closed and open, respectively. We conclude that WASp stabilizes p35-dependent closure of the complex, holding Arp2 and Arp3 closer together to nucleate an actin filament.

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