Amir Moayed L&S Sciences
Understanding Actin Dynamics and Organization in FIlopodia Using Cryo-Electron Tomography
Filopodia are finger-like actin based extensions in migrating cells. These cytoplasmic projections are involved in perceiving the environment, interacting with extracellular particles for phagocytosis, anchoring the cell to the substratum, and responding to chemoattractants. In eukaryotic cells, proper actin organization and interaction with the membrane and binding proteins is crucial for filopodia function. Despite having a general understanding of the various functions associated with filopodia, there is not much known about how actin organization and interaction with the membrane at the leading edge allows the cell to carry out these processes. To address this question, I will use cryo-electron tomography to visualize the actin networks of mammalian cell filopodia. I will generate segmentation models highlighting actin filaments, actin bundling factors, the plasma membrane and potential actin-plasma membrane connections in the tomograms. Ultimately, I want to use subtomogram averaging on the bundling factors and actin membrane interactors to increase the resolution and potentially link these unknown densities to previously described proteins. Through my research, I hope to reveal the small intricacies underlying the actin organization in filopodia to better understand cancer cell progression and metastasis.