Reconstitution of amoeboid motility in vitro identifies a motor-independent mechanism for cell body retraction

Katsuya Shimabukuro, Naoki Noda, Murray Stewart, Thomas M. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Crawling movement in eukaryotic cells requires coordination of leading-edge protrusion with cell body retraction [1-3]. Protrusion is driven by actin polymerization along the leading edge [4]. The mechanism of retraction is less clear; myosin contractility may be involved in some cells [5] but is not essential in others [6-9]. In Ascaris sperm, protrusion and retraction are powered by the major sperm protein (MSP) motility system instead of the conventional actin apparatus [10, 11]. These cells lack motor proteins [12] and so are well suited to explore motor-independent mechanisms of retraction. We reconstituted protrusion and retraction simultaneously in MSP filament meshworks, called fibers, that assemble behind plasma membrane-derived vesicles. Retraction is triggered by depolymerization of complete filaments in the rear of the fiber [13]. The surviving filaments reorganize to maintain their packing density. By packing fewer filaments into a smaller volume, the depolymerizing network shrinks and thereby generates sufficient force to move an attached load. Our work provides direct evidence for motor-independent retraction in the reconstituted MSP motility system of nematode sperm. This mechanism could also apply to actin-based cells and may explain reports of cells that crawl even when their myosin activity is compromised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1727-1731
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


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