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WASP and WAVE family proteins: key molecules for rapid rearrangement of cortical actin filaments and cell movement
T. Takenawa, H. Miki


Reorganization of cortical actin filaments plays critical roles in cell movement and pattern formation. Recently, the WASP and WAVE family proteins WASP and N-WASP, and WAVE1, WAVE2 and WAVE3 have been shown to regulate cortical actin filament reorganization in response to extracellular stimuli. These proteins each have a verprolin-homology (V) domain, cofilin-homology (C) domain and an acidic (A) region at the C-terminus, through which they activate the Arp2/3 complex, leading to rapid actin polymerization. N-WASP is usually present as an inactive form in which the VCA region is masked. Cooperative binding of Cdc42 and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PtdIns(4,5)P(2)) exposes the VCA region, activating N-WASP. In addition to this activation mechanism, WISH also activates N-WASP independently of Cdc42 and PtdIns(4,5)P(2), by binding to the proline-rich region of N-WASP. N-WASP activation induces formation of filopodia in vivo. In contrast, the ubiquitously expressed form of WAVE2 is activated downstream of Rac, leading to formation of lamellipodia. In this case, IRSp53 transmits a signal from Rac to WAVE2 through formation of a ternary Rac-IRSp53-WAVE2 complex. Thus, N-WASP, which is activated downstream of Cdc42 or independently by WISH, induces formation of filopodia and WAVE2, which is activated via IRSp53 downstream of Rac, induces formation of lamellipodia.