Coupled excitable Ras and F-actin activation mediates spontaneous pseudopod formation and directed cell movement

van Haastert P. J. M., Keizer-Gunnink I., Kortholt A.

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL, vol.28, no.7, pp.922-934, 2017 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 28 Issue: 7
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1091/mbc.e16-10-0733
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.922-934
  • Süleyman Demirel University Affiliated: No


Many eukaryotic cells regulate their mobility by external cues. Genetic studies have identified >100 components that participate in chemotaxis, which hinders the identification of the conceptual framework of how cells sense and respond to shallow chemical gradients. The activation of Ras occurs during basal locomotion and is an essential connector between receptor and cytoskeleton during chemotaxis. Using a sensitive assay for activated Ras, we show here that activation of Ras and F-actin forms two excitable systems that are coupled through mutual positive feedback and memory. This coupled excitable system leads to short-lived patches of activated Ras and associated F-actin that precede the extension of protrusions. In buffer, excitability starts frequently with Ras activation in the back/side of the cell or with F-actin in the front of the cell. In a shallow gradient of chemoattractant, local Ras activation triggers full excitation of Ras and subsequently F-actin at the side of the cell facing the chemoattractant, leading to directed pseudopod extension and chemotaxis. A computational model shows that the coupled excitable Ras/F-actin system forms the driving heart for the ordered-stochastic extension of pseudopods in buffer and for efficient directional extension of pseudopods in chemotactic gradients.