Cytoskeleton dynamics powers nematode sperm motility

Adv Protein Chem. 2005;71:383-99. doi: 10.1016/S0065-3233(04)71010-4.


Nematode sperm provide a simple and specialized system for studying the molecular mechanism of amoeboid cell motility. Locomotion is generated by the assembly dynamics of their cytoskeleton, which is based on the major sperm protein (MSP). Protrusive force is generated at the leading edge of the lamellipod by MSP filament formation and bundling, whereas the contractile force that drags the rearward cell body forward is generated by cytoskeleton disassembly. The dynamics of the system can be reconstituted in vitro using cell-free extracts of Ascaris sperm, in which vesicles derived from the leading edge of the cell can be either pushed or pulled. The addition of ATP to the cell-free extract initiates MSP filament polymerization and bundling immediately behind the vesicle, and the expansion of the resulting gel pushes the vesicle at rates comparable to those seen in living cells. In contrast, the addition of Yersinia tyrosine phosphatase generates depolymerization and gel contraction that pulls the vesicles. Overall, nematode sperm motility illustrates that cell locomotion can be generated by cytoskeletal dynamics alone without the use of myosin-like motor proteins.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Helminth Proteins / chemistry
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sperm Motility / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • major sperm protein, nematode