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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1994;27(1):88-96.

Role of microtubules in random cell migration: stabilization of cell polarity.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.


The role of microtubules in random cell migration was investigated using time-lapse videomicroscopy to record in vitro the shape and motile behavior of guinea pig alveolar macrophages before and after disrupting microtubules with colcemid. Cell migration was quantified in terms of directional persistence time and speed. Motility was also correlated with morphological polarity: cells having a single lamellipodal region (monopolar cells) migrated, whereas those lacking a lamellipod (apolar cells) or with opposing lamellipodal regions (bipolar cells) did not migrate. Within 2 hours, colcemid caused a shift in polarity from 80% monopolar cells to 40% monopolar and 40% bipolar cells and a corresponding decrease from 80% to 40% in the fraction of migrating cells. Mean persistence time and speed decreased only slightly (approximately 20%) for those cells (still monopolar) which continued to migrate in the presence of colcemid. Persistence time and speed actually increased for many individual cells, indicating that random migration did not require intact microtubules. We conclude that colcemid treatment destabilizes monopolarity, leading to the gradual loss of monopolarity and consequent inhibition of migration. While a cell remains monopolar, it will continue to migrate even in the absence of intact microtubules, but microtubules are required for the long-term maintenance of cellular monopolarity and, thus, for continued motility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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