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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27532. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027532. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Amoeboid cells use protrusions for walking, gliding and swimming.

Author information

  • Department of Cell Biochemistry, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. P.J.M.van.haastert@rug.nl


Amoeboid cells crawl using pseudopods, which are convex extensions of the cell surface. In many laboratory experiments, cells move on a smooth substrate, but in the wild cells may experience obstacles of other cells or dead material, or may even move in liquid. To understand how cells cope with heterogeneous environments we have investigated the pseudopod life cycle of wild type and mutant cells moving on a substrate and when suspended in liquid. We show that the same pseudopod cycle can provide three types of movement that we address as walking, gliding and swimming. In walking, the extending pseudopod will adhere firmly to the substrate, which allows cells to generate forces to bypass obstacles. Mutant cells with compromised adhesion can move much faster than wild type cells on a smooth substrate (gliding), but cannot move effectively against obstacles that provide resistance. In a liquid, when swimming, the extending pseudopods convert to side-bumps that move rapidly to the rear of the cells. Calculations suggest that these bumps provide sufficient drag force to mediate the observed forward swimming of the cell.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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