Structure and control of the actin regulatory WAVE complex


Members of the Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) family control cytoskeletal dynamics by promoting actin filament nucleation with the Arp2/3 complex. The WASP relative WAVE regulates lamellipodia formation within a 400-kilodalton, hetero-pentameric WAVE regulatory complex (WRC). The WRC is inactive towards the Arp2/3 complex, but can be stimulated by the Rac GTPase, kinases and phosphatidylinositols. Here we report the 2.3-ångstrom crystal structure of the WRC and complementary mechanistic analyses. The structure shows that the activity-bearing VCA motif of WAVE is sequestered by a combination of intramolecular and intermolecular contacts within the WRC. Rac and kinases appear to destabilize a WRC element that is necessary for VCA sequestration, suggesting the way in which these signals stimulate WRC activity towards the Arp2/3 complex. The spatial proximity of the Rac binding site and the large basic surface of the WRC suggests how the GTPase and phospholipids could cooperatively recruit the complex to membranes.

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Figure 1: MiniWRC structure.
Figure 2: Mechanism of WRC inhibition.
Figure 3: Mechanisms of WRC activation by Rac1 and phosphorylation.
Figure 4: Model for cooperative membrane recruitment and activation of the WRC.

Accession codes

Primary accessions

Protein Data Bank

Data deposits

The atomic coordinates of the WRC have been deposited in the Protein Data Bank under accession code 3P8C.


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We thank B. Chen for providing samples of full-length WRC and VCA polypeptide for electron microscopy and some biochemical analyses, C. Pak for helping with the total internal reflection fluorescence experiment, D. Tomchick and C. Brautigam for technical assistance and N. Grishin for assistance with sequence analysis and discussion. Research was supported by fellowships from the Cancer Research Institute and the NIH (1F32-GM06917902) to Z.C. and S.B.P., respectively, an Allergic Diseases Training grant (AI07047) to T.S.G., grants from the NIH to D.D.B. (R01-AI065474), Z.O. (R01-GM053163) and M.K.R. (R01-GM056322), a grant from the Welch Foundation to M.K.R. (I-1544) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. D.D.B. is a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar. Use of the Argonne National Laboratory Structural Biology Center beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source was supported by the US DOE under contract DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Author information




M.K.R. oversaw the project. Z.C., A.I., S.B.P. and J.U. developed the WRC reconstitution. D.B., Z.C. and Z.O. determined the structure of the WRC. Z.C. performed the biochemical experiments. D.D.B. and T.S.G. performed the cellular experiments. Z.M. performed the electron microscopy experiments. .Z.C., Z.O. and M.K.R. analysed the WRC structure. D.B., Z.C., Z.O., S.B.P. and M.K.R. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael K. Rosen.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Chen, Z., Borek, D., Padrick, S. et al. Structure and control of the actin regulatory WAVE complex. Nature 468, 533–538 (2010).

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