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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2010 Apr;11(4):237-51. doi: 10.1038/nrm2867. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

A nucleator arms race: cellular control of actin assembly.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


For over a decade, the actin-related protein 2/3 (ARP2/3) complex, a handful of nucleation-promoting factors and formins were the only molecules known to directly nucleate actin filament formation de novo. However, the past several years have seen a surge in the discovery of mammalian proteins with roles in actin nucleation and dynamics. Newly recognized nucleation-promoting factors, such as WASP and SCAR homologue (WASH), WASP homologue associated with actin, membranes and microtubules (WHAMM), and junction-mediating regulatory protein (JMY), stimulate ARP2/3 activity at distinct cellular locations. Formin nucleators with additional biochemical and cellular activities have also been uncovered. Finally, the Spire, cordon-bleu and leiomodin nucleators have revealed new ways of overcoming the kinetic barriers to actin polymerization.

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