Cell Biology

Crawling cells need to explore

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Science  16 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6318, pp. 1388
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6318.1388-b

As it crawls, a cell explores the space in front of it by extending protrusions. These are formed by the branching of actin filaments in the cytoskeleton at the leading edge that push the cell membrane outward. Leithner et al. disrupted actin branching in crawling leukocytes and observed profound changes in cell shape. The cells were able to move but were unable to change direction or navigate, whereas wild-type cells oriented in response to chemical gradients and navigated obstacles. Thus, although actin filament branching is not required to move a crawling cell forward, it is essential for generating the protrusions necessary to explore and navigate a complex three-dimensional environment.

Actin filaments allow cells to explore.

PHOTO: A. LEITHNER ET AL., NATURE CELL BIOLOGY 18, 1253 (24 OCTOBER 2016) © 2016 MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS LIMITED

Nat. Cell Biol. 18, 1253 (2016).

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