Cell motility: can Rho GTPases and microtubules point the way? Academic Article uri icon


  • Migrating cells display a characteristic polarization of the actin cytoskeleton. Actin filaments polymerise in the protruding front of the cell whereas actin filament bundles contract in the cell body, which results in retraction of the cell's rear. The dynamic organization of the actin cytoskeleton provides the force for cell motility and is regulated by small GTPases of the Rho family, in particular Rac1, RhoA and Cdc42. Although the microtubule cytoskeleton is also polarized in a migrating cell, and microtubules are essential for the directed migration of many cell types, their role in cell motility is not well understood at a molecular level. Here, we discuss the potential molecular mechanisms for interplay of microtubules, actin and Rho GTPase signalling in cell polarization and motility. Recent evidence suggests that microtubules locally modulate the activity of Rho GTPases and, conversely, Rho GTPases might be responsible for the initial polarization of the microtubule cytoskeleton. Thus, microtubules might be part of a positive feedback mechanism that maintains the stable polarization of a directionally migrating cell.

publication date

  • November 2001