Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 58, Issue 11, pp 1607-1626

First online:

The Arp2/3 complex: a central regulator of the actin cytoskeleton

  • R.C. MayAffiliated withSchool of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT (United Kingdom), Fax +44 121 414 5925, e-mail: r.c.may@bham.ac.uk

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In recent years the Arp2/3 complex has emerged as a central regulator of actin dynamics, assembling and cross-linking actin filaments to produce a diverse array of cellular structures. Here I discuss our current state of knowledge about this actin-remodelling machine. The predicted structure of the Arp2/3 complex can be directly correlated with its ability to nucleate, cap and cross-link actin filaments. A growing family of Arp2/3 complex activators such as the WASP family, type I myosins, and the newly identified activators cortactin and Abp1p tightly regulate this activity within the cell. Localised activation of the Arp2/3 complex produces structures such as lamellipodia or actin patches via a process termed dendritic nucleation. Furthermore, several pathogenic microorganisms have evolved strategies to 'hijack' the Arp2/3 complex to their own advantage. Finally, I discuss some of the questions which remain unanswered about this fascinating complex.

Key words. Arp2/3 complex; actin cytoskeleton; WASP; dendritic nucleation; Listeria.