Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Flash Points
05 November 2012

Flash Points

Starting at a single point in the night sky, fireworks explode out in all directions. Careful choreographing of firework focal points is the key to a beautifully balanced display. On a smaller scale, the actin architecture in our cells starts in a similar way. Actin is one of the main components of the cell's cytoskeleton – the internal scaffolding that helps cells keep their shape. Strings of actin assemble into a highly ordered network of bundles to help the cell move and grow. The molecular Catherine wheel pictured is the product of work that aims to understand how these structures arrange themselves. Like a firework, actin filaments burst from single 'nucleation points'. This research, which artificially placed these points around microscopic circles, showed that it’s the layout of start sites around the cell that dictates the ultimate structure of the actin network.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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