Filopodia-Like Structure Formation from Xenopus Egg Extracts.


Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute and Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge CB2 1QN, United Kingdom [Email]


The actin cytoskeleton comprises many different architectures of filaments, including branched networks, parallel bundles and antiparallel fibers. A current challenge is to elucidate how the diverse array of actin regulators, which controls the growth, assembly and turnover of actin filaments, is used to orchestrate cytoskeletal organization and in turn cell shape and movement. Long observed to assemble at cell membranes, actin in Xenopus egg extracts recapitulates membrane-triggered assembly at specific lipid and membrane environments. The use of Xenopus egg extracts has contributed greatly to identifying how constitutively autoinhibited regulatory pathways are activated, which converge on activation of the Arp2/3 complex. Here we describe a protocol for making parallel actin bundles using Xenopus egg extracts from supernatants prepared by high-speed centrifugation. These filopodia-like actin bundles emanate from clusters of actin regulators that self-assemble at phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-bisphosphate-containing supported lipid bilayers. Forming a plasma membrane-mimicking bilayer on glass allows easy, optimizable, high signal-to-noise microscopy at high spatial and temporal resolution. The use of Xenopus egg extracts yields large quantities of active material that can be flexibly tailored to address specific questions, for example, by dilution, addition of fluorescent proteins, antibodies or protein fragments, immunodepletion, addition of small molecule inhibitors, or biochemical fractionation.

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