The actin severing protein cofilin is essential for directed cell migration and chemotaxis, in many cell types and is also important for tumor cell invasion during metastasis. Through its severing activity, cofilin increases the number of free barbed ends to initiate actin polymerization for actin-based protrusion in two distinct subcellular compartments in invasive tumor cells: lamellipodia and invadopodia. Cofilin severing activity is tightly regulated and multiple mechanisms are utilized to regulate cofilin activity. In this prospect, we have grouped the primary on/off regulation into two broad categories, both of which are important for inhibiting cofilin from binding to F-actin or G-actin: (1) Blocking cofilin activity by the binding of cofilin to either PI(4,5)P(2) at lamellipodia, or cortactin at invadopodia. (2) Blocking cofilin's ability to bind to actin via serine phosphorylation. Although the literature suggests that these cofilin regulatory mechanisms may be cell-type dependent, we propose the existence of a common cofilin activity cycle in which both operate. In this common cycle, the mechanism used to initiate cofilin activity is determined by the starting point in the cycle in a given subcellular compartment.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.