After Listeria, a bacterium, is phagocytosed by a macrophage, it dissolves the phagosomal membrane and enters the cytoplasm. The Listeria than nucleates actin filaments from its surface. These newly assembled actin filaments show unidirectional polarity with their barbed ends associated with the surface of the Listeria. Using actin concentrations below the pointed end critical concentration we find that filament elongation must be occurring by monomers adding to the barbed ends, the ends associated with the Listerial surface. If Listeria with tails are incubated in G actin under polymerizing conditions, the Listeria is translocated away from its preformed tail by the elongation of filaments attached to the Listeria. This experiment and others tell us that in vivo filament assembly must be tightly coupled to filament capping and cross-bridging so that if one process outstrips another, chaos ensues. We also show that the actin filaments in the tail are capped on their pointed ends which inhibits further elongation and/or disassembly in vitro. From these results we suggest a simple picture of how Listeria competes effectively for host cell actin. When Listeria secretes a nucleator, the host's actin subunits polymerize into a filament. Host cell machinery terminate the assembly leaving a short filament. Listeria overcomes the host control by nucleating new filaments and thus many short filaments assemble. The newest filaments push existing ones into a growing tail. Thus the competition is between nucleation of filaments caused by Listeria and the filament terminators produced by the host.

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