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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2002 Jul;34(7):726-30.

Structures in focus--filopodia.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Filopodia are thin cell surface extensions filled with tight parallel bundles of actin filaments. They are highly dynamic structures which rapidly extend and retract as well as sweep up and down and from side to side, and can be found at the leading edge of many types of motile cells such as fibroblasts and keratinocytes, as well as the growth cone tips of migrating axons. Cells appear to use filopodia to explore the extracellular matrix (ECM) and surfaces of other cells, identifying appropriate targets for adhesion or in the case of a migrating growth cone, for sensing guidance cues that enable the axon to navigate to it's appropriate target. As well as this sensory role, filopodia have also recently been shown to play an important mechanical role in epithelial adhesion, and are likely to be key players in developmental processes that require migrating epithelial sheets to zipper and fuse to one another. Their dynamic properties as well as their tendency to be damaged or lost after fixation mean they are best analysed using live imaging techniques. As this field improves, the number of tissues in which filopodia are seen to be playing key roles is fast increasing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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