We investigated the motion of filopodia and actin bundles in lamellipodia of motile cells, using time-lapse sequences of polarized light images. We measured the velocity of retrograde flow of the actin network and the lateral motion of filopodia and actin bundles of the lamellipodium. Upon noting that laterally moving filopodia and actin bundles are always tilted with respect to the direction of retrograde flow, we propose a simple geometric model for the mechanism of lateral motion. The model establishes a relationship between the speed of lateral motion of actin bundles, their tilt angle with respect to the direction of retrograde flow, and the speed of retrograde flow in the lamellipodium. Our experimental results verify the quantitative predictions of the model. Furthermore, our observations support the hypothesis that lateral movement of filopodia is caused by retrograde flow of tilted actin bundles and by their growth through actin polymerization at the tip of the bundles inside the filopodia. Therefore we conclude that the lateral motion of tilted filopodia and actin bundles does not require a separate motile mechanism but is the result of retrograde flow and the assembly of actin filaments and bundles near the leading edge of the lamellipodium.
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