Actin in the nucleus: what form and what for?

J Struct Biol. Oct-Dec 2002;140(1-3):3-9. doi: 10.1016/s1047-8477(02)00528-2.


Actin is an abundant protein in most nonmuscle cells. It has often been observed in isolated nuclei, yet cytoplasmic contamination was of course initially regarded as the most plausible origin. Numerous studies on nuclear actin appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, but the picture remained rather muddy. The viewpoint at that time was that actin-shown to move freely between cytoplasm and nucleus-was a mere "thermodynamic wanderer," transiently occupying the nucleus. More recently, evidence has been mounting that actin's presence in the nucleus is not simply governed by the laws of diffusion. The same holds true for the finding of various actin-related proteins in the nucleus, and the case for nuclear myosin, specifically myosin I, is now quite convincing. Moreover, the first intimations of functional roles of nuclear actin are now emerging. Here we examine the overall subject from cell biological and chemical perspectives. The major issue is no longer the presence of actin in the nucleus but rather its supramolecular organization, intranuclear locations, and, of course, functions. These issues interface with recent findings that reveal a surprisingly diverse repertoire of actin conformations and oligomer and polymer forms beyond monomeric G-actin and polymeric F-actin. We present ideas for advancing the nuclear actin field and call for a renewed attack on this major problem in cell biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Actins / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Humans


  • Actins