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Mol Biol Cell. 2011 Nov;22(21):3995-4003. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E11-03-0278. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

The SCAR/WAVE complex is necessary for proper regulation of traction stresses during amoeboid motility.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering, Jacobs School of Engineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Cell migration requires a tightly regulated, spatiotemporal coordination of underlying biochemical pathways. Crucial to cell migration is SCAR/WAVE-mediated dendritic F-actin polymerization at the cell's leading edge. Our goal is to understand the role the SCAR/WAVE complex plays in the mechanics of amoeboid migration. To this aim, we measured and compared the traction stresses exerted by Dictyostelium cells lacking the SCAR/WAVE complex proteins PIR121 (pirA(-)) and SCAR (scrA(-)) with those of wild-type cells while they were migrating on flat, elastic substrates. We found that, compared to wild type, both mutant strains exert traction stresses of different strengths that correlate with their F-actin levels. In agreement with previous studies, we found that wild-type cells migrate by repeating a motility cycle in which the cell length and strain energy exerted by the cells on their substrate vary periodically. Our analysis also revealed that scrA(-) cells display an altered motility cycle with a longer period and a lower migration velocity, whereas pirA(-) cells migrate in a random manner without implementing a periodic cycle. We present detailed characterization of the traction-stress phenotypes of the various cell lines, providing new insights into the role of F-actin polymerization in regulating cell-substratum interactions and stresses required for motility.

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