Cell Motility

Cells need to stay in shape, too

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Science  23 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6186, pp. 869
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6186.869-a

Actin visualized in a crawling cell.

PHOTO: D. BURNETTE ET AL., THE JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY 205, 1 (14 APRIL 2014) © THE ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY PRESS

To move efficiently, people need to stay in shape—and the same is true for cells. Burnette et al. looked at the 3D organization of contractile fibers used by living animal cells as they crawled about on a surface. The cells adopted a wedge-like shape with a wide, flattened front end dragging a slim rear. To keep moving, the cells used a counterbalanced contraction-adhesion system. At the top of the cell, a network of contractile fibers made from actin and myosin (the same proteins used in muscles) coupled to noncontracting stress fibers anchored to the cell's surface. Understanding how cells move is important for understanding normal development, wound healing, and metastasizing tumor cells.

J. Cell Biol. 205, 83 (2014).

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