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Eur J Cell Biol. 2006 Dec;85(12):1217-31. Epub 2006 Sep 28.

Actin dynamics at sites of extracellular matrix degradation.

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Department of Cell Biology and Oncology, Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Via Nazionale 8A, I-66030 S. Maria Imbaro, Chieti, Italy.


The degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM) by proteases is crucial in physiological and pathological cell invasion alike. In vitro, degradation occurs at specific sites where invasive cells make contact with the ECM via specialized plasma membrane protrusions termed invadopodia. Here we present an extensive morpho-functional analysis of invadopodia actively engaged in ECM degradation and show that they are actin comet-based structures, not unlike the well-known bacteria-propelling actin tails. The relative mapping of the basic molecular components of invadopodia to actin tails is also provided. Finally, a live-imaging analysis of invadopodia highlights the intrinsic long-term stability of the structures coupled to a highly dynamic actin turnover. The results offer new insight into the tight coordination between signalling, actin remodelling and trafficking activities occurring at sites of focalized ECM degradation by invadopodia. In conclusion, invadopodia-associated actin comets are a striking example of consistently arising, spontaneous expression of actin-driven propulsion events that also represent a valuable experimental paradigm.

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