The direction of membrane lipid flow in locomoting polymorphonuclear leukocytes

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Science  09 Mar 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4947, pp. 1229-1233
DOI: 10.1126/science.2315695


The objective of this study was to determine the direction of membrane lipid flow in locomoting cells. The plasma membrane of human polymorphonuclear leukocytes was stained with a fluorescent lipid analog dihexadecanoyl indocarbocyanine. A line was photobleached on the cell surface perpendicular to the direction of cell motion. Low-light-level fluorescence microscopy and digital image-processing techniques were used to analyze a series of images taken at short intervals after photobleaching. The bleached line remained visible for about 5 seconds before being erased by diffusional recovery. Examination of fluorescence intensity profiles allowed a comparison to be made between the velocities of line and cell movement. Results indicate that the bleached line moves forward with the same velocity as the cell during locomotion, refuting the retrograde lipid flow model of locomotion. Instead, the plasma membrane lipid appears to move forward according to either the unit movement of membrane or the tank track model of locomotion.

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