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J Biol Chem. 2006 Apr 14;281(15):10589-97. Epub 2005 Dec 23.

Actin binding to the central domain of WASP/Scar proteins plays a critical role in the activation of the Arp2/3 complex.

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Graduate Group in Biophysics and Department of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


The Arp2/3 complex nucleates and cross-links actin filaments at the leading edge of motile cells, and its activity is stimulated by C-terminal regions of WASP/Scar proteins, called VCA domains. VCA domains contain a verprolin homology sequence (V) that binds monomeric actin and central (C) and acidic sequences (A) that bind the Arp2/3 complex. Here we show that the C domain binds to monomeric actin with higher affinity (K(d) = 10 microm) than to the Arp2/3 complex (K(d) > 200 microm). Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy reveals that actin binds to the N-terminal half of the C domain and that both the V and C domains can bind actin independently and simultaneously, indicating that they interact with different sites. Mutation of conserved hydrophobic residues in the actin-binding interface of the C domain disrupts activation of the Arp2/3 complex but does not alter affinity for the complex. By chemical cross-linking the C domain interacts with the p40 subunit of the Arp2/3 complex and, by fluorescence polarization anisotropy, the binding of actin and the Arp2/3 complex are mutually exclusive. Our results indicate that both actin and Arp2/3 binding are important for C domain function but that the C domain does not form a static bridge between the two. We propose a model for activation of the Arp2/3 complex in which the C domain first primes the complex by inducing a necessary conformational change and then initiates nucleus assembly by bringing an actin monomer into proximity of the primed complex.

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