Cell Motility

Cell Motility

Cell motility is an important part of many physiological processes such as inflammation (as immune cells move into sites of infection), angiogenesis (as endothelial and smooth muscle cells move to form new blood vessels) and placental development (as trophoblast cells migrate into and invade the uterus and maternal blood vessels). It also plays an important role in the development of cancer, with cell motility and migration involved in the spread, or metastasis, of tumours.

Cell motility and migration is a highly complex and tightly regulated process. There are several steps in this process, starting with polarisation of the cell so that the cell displays a "front" and a "back". This is then followed by protrusion of the plasma membrane from the "front" of the cell (often called the leading edge). The plasma mebrane protrusions then need to adhere to the surface and help provide traction to pull the cell forward. The final step is then the retraction of the trailing edge of the cell and the process is repeated as the cell moves forward.

A video of migrating trophoblast cells is shown below: 

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This video shows membrane ruffles forming at the leading edge, which is the site of increased actin polymerisation. The formation of the lamellipodium can also be seen towards the end of the movie.

We are interested in how trophoblast migration is regulated, and particularly what role nitric oxide has in this process.

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