"Understanding how cells crawl is a big deal," Roberts said. "The first line of defense against invading microorganisms, the remodeling of bones, healing wounds in the skin and reconnecting of neuronal circuits during regeneration of the nervous system all depend on the capacity of specialized cells to crawl.
"On the downside, the ability of tumor cells to crawl around is a contributing factor in the metastasis of malignancies," he said. "But we believe our achievements in this latest round of basic research could eventually aid in the development of therapies that target cell motility in order to interfere with or block the metastasis of cancer."
Funding for Robert's worm-sperm study came from the National Institutes of Health. The findings are described in a paper ("Reconstitution of Amoeboid Motility In Vitro Identifies a Motor-Independent Mechanism for Cell Body Retraction") published online in the journal Current Biology.
Why worm sperm?
For one thing, said Roberts, the worm sperm is different from most cells in that itdoesn't use molecular motor proteins to facilitate its contractions; it shimmies along strictly by putting together and tearing down its tiny filaments. And the simple worm sperm makes a good model because, while it is similar to a human cell it has fewer moving parts, making it less complicated to take apart and reassemble than, say, brain or cancer cells.
Armed with the newfound ability to reconstitute amoeboid motility in vitro, cell biologists such as Roberts may be able to learn the answers to some major moving questions. Among them: How can some cells continue to crawl even after researchers have disabled their supply of myosin, the force-producing "mover protein" that functions like a motor to help power muscle and cell contraction?
For Roberts and his team, the next move will be t
|Contact: Thomas A. Roberts|
Florida State University