Actin based motility on retraction fibers in mitotic PtK2 cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • When PtK2 cells round up in mitosis they leave retraction fibers attached between the substrate and the cell body. Retraction fibers and the region where they meet the cell body are rich in actin filaments as judged by phalloidin staining and electron microscopy. Video microscopy was used to study actin dependent motile processes on retraction fibers. Small, phase-dense nodules form spontaneously on the fibers, and move in to the cell body at a rate of 3 microns/minute. As they move in they increase progressively in phase-density. This movement appears to be related to actin dependent centripetal movement which has been previously studied in lamellipodia. Despite its generality, the mechanism of such movement is unknown, and retraction fibers present some special advantages for its study. Cytochalasin treatment causes nodules to stop moving and dissolve. Withdrawal of the drug causes them to reform and start moving. Surprisingly, movement after cytochalasin withdrawal was often outward, indicating a local reversal of cortical polarity. After a few minutes correct polarity is reestablished by a global control mechanism. The implications of these observations for the mechanism and polarity of actin dependent motility is discussed.

publication date

  • 1992