Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Actin Hard
23 November 2015

Actin Hard

A bit like a microscopic workout, these identical cells are pulling and tensing against different surfaces. The top left cell, sitting on a soft surface, is a completely different shape to the cells stretching out on stiffer surfaces (top right, bottom left, bottom right). The cells’ 'bones' (fibres of a protein called actin) line up when gripping to rigid surfaces, transforming the cytoskeleton from fluid to solid. Patches of rearranged and aligned cytoskeleton are shown in different colours in the bottom left cell; the cell straining against the hardest surface (bottom right) has aligned most of its cytoskeleton. These physical tests tell researchers a great deal about how cells adapt in natural environments. Demonstrating that cells can remodel their cytoskeletons on different surfaces provides clues to how cells cope with the volatile forces at play during development and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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