Actin assembly mechanisms at a glance

J Cell Sci. 2017 Oct 15;130(20):3427-3435. doi: 10.1242/jcs.206433.


The actin cytoskeleton and associated motor proteins provide the driving forces for establishing the astonishing morphological diversity and dynamics of mammalian cells. Aside from functions in protruding and contracting cell membranes for motility, differentiation or cell division, the actin cytoskeleton provides forces to shape and move intracellular membranes of organelles and vesicles. To establish the many different actin assembly functions required in time and space, actin nucleators are targeted to specific subcellular compartments, thereby restricting the generation of specific actin filament structures to those sites. Recent research has revealed that targeting and activation of actin filament nucleators, elongators and myosin motors are tightly coordinated by conserved protein complexes to orchestrate force generation. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster, we summarize and discuss the current knowledge on the corresponding protein complexes and their modes of action in actin nucleation, elongation and force generation.

Keywords: Actin cytoskeleton; Actin filament elongation; Actin nucleation; Membrane contractions; Membrane protrusion; Membrane trafficking; Myosin force generation; Rho-GTPase signalling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Actins / physiology
  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Pseudopodia / physiology*
  • Pseudopodia / ultrastructure


  • Actins