The branched actin nucleator Arp2/3 promotes nuclear migrations and cell polarity in the C. elegans zygote

Dev Biol. 2011 Sep 15;357(2):356-69. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.07.008. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


Regulated movements of the nucleus are essential during zygote formation, cell migrations, and differentiation of neurons. The nucleus moves along microtubules (MTs) and is repositioned on F-actin at the cellular cortex. Two families of nuclear envelope proteins, SUN and KASH, link the nucleus to the actin and MT cytoskeletons during nuclear movements. However, the role of actin nucleators in nuclear migration and positioning is poorly understood. We show that the branched actin nucleator, Arp2/3, affects nuclear movements throughout embryonic and larval development in C. elegans, including nuclear migrations in epidermal cells and neuronal precursors. In one-cell embryos the migration of the male pronucleus to meet the female pronucleus after fertilization requires Arp2/3. Loss of Arp2/3 or its activators changes the dynamics of non-muscle myosin, NMY-2, and alters the cortical accumulation of posterior PAR proteins. Reduced establishment of the posterior microtubule cytoskeleton in Arp2/3 mutants correlates with reduced male pronuclear migration. The UNC-84/SUN nuclear envelope protein that links the nucleus to the MT and actin cytoskeleton is known to regulate later nuclear migrations. We show here it also positions the male pronucleus. These studies demonstrate a global role for Arp2/3 in nuclear migrations. In the C. elegans one-cell embryo Arp2/3 promotes the establishment of anterior/posterior polarity and promotes MT growth that propels the anterior migration of the male pronucleus. In contrast with previous studies emphasizing pulling forces on the male pronucleus, we propose that robust MT nucleation pushes the male pronucleus anteriorly to join the female pronucleus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / metabolism*
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Actomyosin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Centrosome / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / embryology
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Movement*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism
  • Zygote / cytology*
  • Zygote / metabolism


  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex
  • Actins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Actomyosin