Cellular breakup caught on video

YALE (US) — Scientists have succeeded in creating a movie showing the breakup of actin filaments, the muscular workhorses of our cells.

These thread-like structures inside cells are crucial to their movement, maintenance, and division. Actin filaments push on membranes to move cells to the proper location within tissues and apply pressure within the interior to keep all working parts of the cell where they need to be.

These filaments do their jobs through a mysterious process of continual splitting and reassembly.

They are assembled and disassembled in a complex series of molecular events, known to be influenced by the protein cofilin. However, it was not known exactly where these breaks occur along the filaments, made up of actins monomer, which are as strong as commercial plastic.

Enrique De La Cruz, associate professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University, and his French colleagues used fluorescent stains of cofilin, which enabled them to create movies of this molecular disassembly.

They used technology called total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to peer into the inner workings of the cell. The work is published in a recent issue of the journal Current Biology.

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