Rearranging the cell’s skeleton

Comets form from pieces of glowing pieces of cell skeleton. Credit: Courtesy of the Inoue lab

Cell biologists at Johns Hopkins have identified key steps in how certain molecules alter a cell’s skeletal shape and drive the cell’s movement. Results of their research, published in the December 13 issue of Science Signaling, have implications for figuring out what triggers the metastatic spread of cancer cells and wound-healing.

“Essentially we are figuring out how cells crawl,” says Takanari Inoue, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cell biology and member of the Center for Cell Dynamics in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. “With work like ours, scientists can reveal what happens when cells move when they aren’t supposed to.”

Their new discovery highlights the role of the cell’s skeleton, or cytoskeleton, in situations where “shape shifting” can rapidly change a cell’s motion and function in response to differing environmental conditions.

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