Elastic wrinkling of keratocyte lamellipodia driven by myosin-induced contractile stress


During actin-based cell migration, the actin cytoskeleton in the lamellipodium both generates and responds to force, which has functional consequences for the ability of the cell to extend protrusions. However, the material properties of the lamellipodial actin network and its response to stress on the timescale of motility are incompletely understood. Here we describe a dynamic wrinkling phenotype in the lamellipodium of fish keratocyes, where the actin sheet buckles upward away from the ventral membrane of the cell, forming a periodic pattern of wrinkles perpendicular to the cell’s leading edge. Cells maintain an approximately constant wrinkle wavelength over time despite new wrinkle formation and the lateral movement of wrinkles in the cell frame of reference, suggesting that cells have a preferred or characteristic wrinkle wavelength. Generation of wrinkles is dependent upon myosin contractility, and their wavelength scales directly with the density of the actin network and inversely with cell adhesion. These results are consistent with a simple physical model for wrinkling in an elastic sheet under compression and suggest that the lamellipodial cytoskeleton behaves as an elastic material on the timescale of cell migration despite rapid actin turnover.

Biophysical Journal