An actin-based wave generator organizes cell motility

PLoS Biol. 2007 Sep;5(9):e221. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050221.


Although many of the regulators of actin assembly are known, we do not understand how these components act together to organize cell shape and movement. To address this question, we analyzed the spatial dynamics of a key actin regulator--the Scar/WAVE complex--which plays an important role in regulating cell shape in both metazoans and plants. We have recently discovered that the Hem-1/Nap1 component of the Scar/WAVE complex localizes to propagating waves that appear to organize the leading edge of a motile immune cell, the human neutrophil. Actin is both an output and input to the Scar/WAVE complex: the complex stimulates actin assembly, and actin polymer is also required to remove the complex from the membrane. These reciprocal interactions appear to generate propagated waves of actin nucleation that exhibit many of the properties of morphogenesis in motile cells, such as the ability of cells to flow around barriers and the intricate spatial organization of protrusion at the leading edge. We propose that cell motility results from the collective behavior of multiple self-organizing waves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology*
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Shape
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein Family / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • WASF1 protein, human
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein Family
  • NCKAP1L protein, human