Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome protein (WASp) and related proteins stimulate actin filament nucleation by Arp2/3 complex. The isolated C-terminal VCA domain of WASp (containing Verprolin-like, Central and Acidic regions) is constitutively active but autoinhibited in the full-length protein. This study compared the ability of parts of VCA fused to the C terminus of glutathione S-transferase (GST) to bind actin and Arp2/3 complex in vitro and to activate actin polymerization in vitro and in cells. Fluorescence anisotropy measurements showed that GST-CA and GST-A bound Arp2/3 complex with K(d) values of 0.11 microm and 1.0 microm, respectively, whereas GST-VC displayed almost undetectable binding (K(d) > 1 mm). However, GST-VC activated actin nucleation through Arp2/3 complex in vitro, though requiring 70-fold higher concentration than GST-VCA while neither GST-CA nor GST-A activated Arp2/3 complex in vitro, though both GST-CA and GST-A inhibited Arp2/3 complex activation by WASp VCA. None of these constructs bound WASp from macrophage lysates. Both GST-VC and GST-CA induced actin accumulations when microinjected into primary human macrophages or human endothelial vein cells. However, only microinjection of GST-VC led to a significant increase of cellular polymerized actin. Additionally, endogenous Arp2/3 complex, but not WASp, colocalized with these GST-VC-induced actin accumulations. These data suggest that WASp constructs lacking the A region, previously thought to be indispensable for actin nucleation, are able to bind and activate Arp2/3 complex in vitro and in vivo.