Actin dynamics at the leading edge: from simple machinery to complex networks

Dev Cell. 2009 Sep;17(3):310-22. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2009.08.012.


Cell migration is an essential feature of eukaryotic life, required for processes ranging from feeding and phagoctyosis to development, healing, and immunity. Migration requires the actin cytoskeleton, specifically the localized polymerization of actin filaments underneath the plasma membrane. Here we summarize recent developments in actin biology that particularly affect structures at the leading edge of the cell, including the structure of actin branches, the multiple pathways that lead to cytoskeleton assembly and disassembly, and the role of blebs. Future progress depends on connecting these processes and components to the dynamic behavior of the whole cell in three dimensions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin-Related Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Actin-Related Protein 3 / metabolism
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Drosophila
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis
  • Protein Interaction Mapping


  • Actin-Related Protein 2
  • Actin-Related Protein 3
  • Actins