Measurement of Barbed Ends, Actin Polymerization, and Motility in Live Carcinoma Cells after Growth Factor Stimulation

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40 Scopus citations


Motility is associated with the ability to extend F-actin-rich protrusions and depends on free barbed ends as new actin polymerization sites. To understand the function and regulation of different proteins involved in the process of generating barbed ends, e.g., cofilin and Arp2/3, fixed cell approaches have been used to determine the relative barbed end concentration in cells. The major disadvantages of these approaches are permeabilization and fixation of cells. In this work, we describe a new live-cell time-lapse microscopy assay to determine the increase of barbed ends after cell stimulation that does not use permeabilization and provides a better time resolution. We established a metastatic carcinoma cell line (MTLn3) stably expressing GFP-β-actin at physiological levels. Stimulation of MTLn3 cells with epidermal growth factor (EGF) causes rapid and transient lamellipod protrusion along with an increase in actin polymerization at the leading edge, which can be followed in live cell experiments. By measuring the increase of F-actin at the leading edge vs. time, we were able to determine the relative increase of barbed ends after stimulation with a high temporal resolution. The F-actin as well as the barbed end concentration agrees well with published data for this cell line. Using this newly developed assay, a decrease in lamellipod extension and a large reduction of barbed ends was documented after microinjecting an anti-cofilin function blocking antibody. This assay has a high potential for applications where rapid changes in the dynamic filament population are to be measured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-217
Number of pages11
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004


  • Cofilin
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Fluorescence
  • GFP
  • Microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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