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J Cell Biol. 2006 Sep 11;174(6):767-72.

Direct measurement of the lamellipodial protrusive force in a migrating cell.

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Institute of Biophysics, University of Bremen, D-28359 Bremen, Germany.


There has been a great deal of interest in the mechanism of lamellipodial protrusion (Pollard, T., and G. Borisy. 2003. Cell. 112:453-465). However, one of this mechanism's endpoints, the force of protrusion, has never been directly measured. We place an atomic force microscopy cantilever in the path of a migrating keratocyte. The deflection of the cantilever, which occurs over a period of approximately 10 s, provides a direct measure of the force exerted by the lamellipodial leading edge. Stall forces are consistent with approximately 100 polymerizing actin filaments per micrometer of the leading edge, each working as an elastic Brownian ratchet and generating a force of several piconewtons. However, the force-velocity curves obtained from this measurement, in which velocity drops sharply under very small loads, is not sensitive to low loading forces, and finally stalls rapidly at large loads, are not consistent with current theoretical models for the actin polymerization force. Rather, the curves indicate that the protrusive force generation is a complex multiphase process involving actin and adhesion dynamics.

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