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Lawrence Yolland: Persistent and polarised global actin flow is essential for directionality during cell migration

Cell migration is has often been thought of as a step-wise process that begins with extension at the leading edge of the cell. However, recent evidence suggests that the leading edge may be in fact be dispensable for cell migration, which raises the question of what actually directs cell migration. In this paper we studied Drosophila macrophages and used novel image analysis software and mathematical tools to uncover what is really controlling cell migration.

This approach demonstrated that fluctuations at the cell edge during migration are not persistent and are weakly correlated with motion. We also show that the flowing actin network behind the leading edge is highly organised and that asymmetries in the cell-wide actin flow field strongly correlate with cell directionality. This organisation is regulated by a gradient of actin network compression and destruction controlled by myosin contraction, and cofilin mediated disassembly respectively.

It is this stable actin-flow polarity that gives rise to persistent cell migration, and as such provides strong evidence for a 'rear wheel drive' view of cell migration. (Click here to read full publication)