Side-binding proteins modulate actin filament dynamics
Actin filament dynamics govern many key physiological processes from cell motility to tissue morphogenesis. A central feature of actin dynamics is the capacity of filaments to polymerize and depolymerize at their ends in response to cellular conditions. It is currently thought that filament kinetics can be described by a single rate constant for each end. In this study, using direct visualization of single actin filament elongation, we show that actin polymerization kinetics at both filament ends are strongly influenced by the binding of proteins to the lateral filament surface. We also show that the pointed-end has a non-elongating state that dominates the observed filament kinetic asymmetry. Estimates of flexibility as well as effects on fragmentation and growth suggest that the observed kinetic diversity arises from structural alteration. Tuning elongation kinetics by exploiting the malleability of the filament structure may be a ubiquitous mechanism to generate a rich variety of cellular actin dynamics.