The Rac1–WAVE–Arp2/3 pathway pushes the plasma membrane by polymerizing branched actin, thereby powering membrane protrusions that mediate cell migration. Here, using knockdown (KD) or knockout (KO), we combine the inactivation of the Arp2/3 inhibitory protein arpin, the Arp2/3 subunit ARPC1A and the WAVE complex subunit CYFIP2, all of which enhance the polymerization of cortical branched actin. Inactivation of the three negative regulators of cortical branched actin increases migration persistence of human breast MCF10A cells and of endodermal cells in the zebrafish embryo, significantly more than any single or double inactivation. In the triple KO cells, but not in triple KD cells, the ‘super-migrator’ phenotype was associated with a heterogenous downregulation of vimentin (VIM) expression and a lack of coordination in collective behaviors, such as wound healing and acinus morphogenesis. Re-expression of vimentin in triple KO cells largely restored normal persistence of single cell migration, suggesting that vimentin downregulation contributes to the maintenance of the super-migrator phenotype in triple KO cells. Constant excessive production of branched actin at the cell cortex thus commits cells into a motile state through changes in gene expression.

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