Schedule Nov 06, 2002
Crawling Cells & Comet Tails
Dr. Julie Theriot, Stanford
The shapes and movements of eukaryotic cells depend on the dynamic organization of filamentous protein polymers, collectively called the "cytoskeleton". Actin is the most abundant of the cytoskeletal proteins, a small globular protein that can self- associate to form helical filaments thousands of subunits in length. Polymerizing networks of actin filaments are capable of exerting significant mechanical forces. Certain intracellular bacterial pathogens, including the food-poisoning agent Listeria monocytogenes, have developed the ability to induce the polymerization of human host cell actin filaments on their surfaces and to harness the resulting force for efficient intra- and intercellular spread of the infection. Moving bacteria are associated with a characteristic actin structure that resembles the tail of a comet. We have reconstituted comet tail formation in a physically manipulable artificial system and are investigating the mechanism of force generation in this form of biological motility.

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