Cells move around using tentacles like structure Filopodia, study

Jay Kakade
Tentacles like structure called Filopodia. (Image Credit: Leijnse et al., Nature Communications, 2022)

Researchers have discovered that the tentacles shaped structure on surface of cell plays a vital role in analysing surrounding environment.

Interaction between cell and its environment is crucial for communication and detection of surrounding.

This interaction is carried out by a F-actin rich structure on the surface of cell called Filopodia.

Filopodia is responsible for cell-cell interaction, communication and sensing.

Filopodia has shown its presence almost everywhere ranging from stem cells to neurons.

It is the filopodia that triggers cell migration in case of injury or even in case of disorders like cancer too.

Filopodia is composed of actin and myosin proteins which allows them to twist as rubber and readjust after move.

This movement of tentacle shaped structure allows cell to move around and even penetrate tissues.

Recent research has discovered that filopodia plays an important role in early communication between stem cells and embryo.

How researchers observed Filopodia?

Team used optical tweezers and a confocal microscope to observe proteins like actin and myosin.

Optical tweezer is a tech machine shoots lasers in a tiny object. Here, tweezer was used on a bead.

This situation enabled team to watch filopodia to grow towards beam and move using tentacles.

Researchers conducted research not only on a single cell, but on variety of cells even on neurons and kidney cells.

Can it be used to cure Cancer?

As stated earlier, its presence in wide variety could be a step on curing disease like cancer.

"Cancer cells are noted for their being highly invasive. And, it is reasonable to believe that they are especially dependent on the efficacy of their filopodia, in terms of examining their surroundings and facilitating their spread," says Niels Bohr Institute biophysicist Poul Martin Bendix.

"So, it's conceivable that by finding ways of inhibiting the filopodia of cancer cells, cancer growth can be stalled."

Inhibiting the filopodia will need an advance study of filopodia. Researchers just have observed such processes.

In near future, scientists may be able to conduct new techniques to trigger filopodia.

“Non-equilibrium physical modeling of actin and myosin confirm that twist is an emergent phenomenon of active filaments confined in a narrow channel which is supported by measured traction forces and helical buckles that can be ascribed to accumulation of sufficient twist,” says author of the study.

“These results lead us to conclude that activity induced twisting of the actin shaft is a general mechanism underlying fundamental functions of filopodia.”
  • Leijnse, N., Barooji, Y.F., Arastoo, M.R. et al. Filopodia rotate and coil by actively generating twist in their actin shaft. Nat Commun 13, 1636 (2022) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28961-x
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