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Cross Purposes

Detailed understanding of the cytoskeleton – the cell's tense and elastic inner 'framework' of proteins

27 September 2021

Cross Purposes

Cells stretch out into their surroundings – relying on tiny 'bone'-like filaments of myosin to push and pull their way along. Here four human cells (with their nuclei highlighted in blue) are given a workout – stretching their cytoskeletons (green) out on cross-shaped platforms (red) to see how myosin rises to the challenge. While a normal cell (top left) reaches out using three different forms myosin working together, the other cells have been genetically edited to remove one of the trio. The arcs in the cells’ cytoskeletons look similar by eye, but researchers zooming in find differences in the shapes of depleted cells. They suggest the three forms of myosin must cooperate to generate and balance tension and elasticity so the cells can grow and move. The next step is to investigate how they cope in the changing environment of living tissues, such as migrating cancer cells.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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