Progress in uncovering the reaction networks that underlie important cell functions is laying the groundwork for quantitative identification of protein-interaction pathways. Since direct measurement of rate constants is not always feasible, the parameters are often inferred from multiple pieces of data using kinetic analyses based on appropriate mathematical models. The success of this approach relies on the sufficiency of available experimental data for a unique parameterization of the network. The concept of a rate-limiting step is applied to the analysis of experimental data that are usually used to quantify a pathway of actin dendritic nucleation, the Arp2/3-mediated mechanism that enables rapid changes of cell shape in response to external cues. The method yields analytical descriptions of the dynamics of polymerized actin and provides insights into how the experimental curves should be analyzed. It is shown that dynamics measured by pyrene-labeled actin assays with varying Arp2/3 concentrations are equally well described by two different rate-limiting steps: 1), binding of a nucleating complex to the side of a preexisting filament; or 2), its subsequent activation. To distinguish between the alternatives, we propose experiments with varying concentrations of actin monomers, taking advantage of the fact that the number of branches in the two cases depends differently on the initial monomer concentration. The idea is tested by simulating the proposed experiments with the use of spatial stochastic modeling.
2010 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.