The plume-like shape of these Bovine Pulmonary Artery Epithelial (BPAE) cells is characteristic of cell motility. Although cells that make up your tissues and organs are typically stationary throughout adult life, there are many reasons a cell may need to move around. For example, when you get a cut on your skin, skin cells move together during the healing process, closing the wound. Also, white blood cells may need to fight infection at that location, so they must “crawl” through a blood vessel wall and through your tissues to reach the site of infection. Cells can crawl along surfaces by pushing their cytoplasm forward (the rounded edge in this image) via polymerizing the protein Actin into long microfilaments in the desired direction of motion. The cell then contracts its back end (the pointed end in this image) via the interaction of Actin with another protein called Myosin. An outstanding video of this process can be viewed here, with actin filaments shown in red and myosin in green. The colors produced in the above artwork are a result of combining fluorescent with non-fluorescent stains, and viewing the BPAE cells using Differential Interference Contrast microscopy. This produced a unique dimensional effect of the cytoplasmic microanatomy.

To read more about cell motility, actin, and myosin, click here.
Artwork generously contributed by DWP.

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