Actin binding proteins: their ups and downs in metastatic life

Cell Adh Migr. Mar-Apr 2013;7(2):199-213. doi: 10.4161/cam.23176. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


In order to metastasize away from the primary tumor site and migrate into adjacent tissues, cancer cells will stimulate cellular motility through the regulation of their cytoskeletal structures. Through the coordinated polymerization of actin filaments, these cells will control the geometry of distinct structures, namely lamella, lamellipodia and filopodia, as well as the more recently characterized invadopodia. Because actin binding proteins play fundamental functions in regulating the dynamics of actin polymerization, they have been at the forefront of cancer research. This review focuses on a subset of actin binding proteins involved in the regulation of these cellular structures and protrusions, and presents some general principles summarizing how these proteins may remodel the structure of actin. The main body of this review aims to provide new insights into how the expression of these actin binding proteins is regulated during carcinogenesis and highlights new mechanisms that may be initiated by the metastatic cells to induce aberrant expression of such proteins.

Keywords: Arp2/3; WASP; ZBP1; actin; cancer; fascin; miRNAs; tropomyosin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Tropomyosin / metabolism
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein / metabolism


  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Tropomyosin
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein
  • ZBP1 protein, human
  • fascin