The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) and its relative neural WASP (N-WASP) regulate the nucleation of actin filaments through their interaction with the Arp2/3 complex and are regulated in turn by binding to GTP-bound Cdc42 and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate. The Nck Src homology (SH) 2/3 adaptor binds via its SH3 domains to a proline-rich region on WASP and N-WASP and has been implicated in recruitment of these proteins to sites of tyrosine phosphorylation. We show here that Nck SH3 domains dramatically stimulate the rate of nucleation of actin filaments by purified N-WASP in the presence of Arp2/3 in vitro. All three Nck SH3 domains are required for maximal activation. Nck-stimulated actin nucleation by N-WASP·Arp2/3 complexes is further stimulated by phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate, but not by GTP-Cdc42, suggesting that Nck and Cdc42 activate N-WASP by redundant mechanisms. These results suggest the existence of an Nck-dependent, Cdc42-independent mechanism to induce actin polymerization at tyrosine-phosphorylated Nck binding sites.
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