Two distinct actin waves correlated with turns-and-runs of crawling microglia

Taeseok Daniel Yang, Kwanjun Park, Jin Sung Park, Jang Hoon Lee, Eunpyo Choi, Jonghwan Lee, Wonshik Choi, Youngwoon Choi, Kyoung J. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Freely crawling cells are often viewed as randomly moving Brownian particles but they generally exhibit some directional persistence. This property is often related to their zigzag motile behaviors that can be described as a noisy but temporally structured sequence of “runs” and “turns.” However, its underlying biophysical mechanism is largely unexplored. Here, we carefully investigate the collective actin wave dynamics associated with the zigzag-crawling movements of microglia (as primary brain immune cells) employing a number of different quantitative imaging modalities including synthetic aperture microscopy and optical diffraction tomography, as well as conventional fluorescence imaging and scanning electron microscopy. Interestingly, we find that microglia exhibit two distinct types of actin waves working at two quite different time scales and locations, and they seem to serve different purposes. One type of actin waves is fast “peripheral ruffles” arising spontaneously with an oscillating period of about 6 seconds at some portion of the leading edge of crawling microglia, where the vigorously biased peripheral ruffles seem to set the direction of a new turn (in 2-D free space). When the cell turning events are inhibited with a physical confinement (in 1-D track), the peripheral ruffles still exist at the leading edge with no bias but showing phase coherence in the cell crawling direction. The other type is “dorsal actin waves” which also exhibits an oscillatory behavior but with a much longer period of around 2 minutes compared to the fast “peripheral ruffles”. Dorsal actin waves (whether the cell turning events are inhibited or not) initiate in the lamellipodium just behind the leading edge, travelling down toward the core region of the cell and disappear. Such dorsal wave propagations seem to be correlated with migration of the cell. Thus, we may view the dorsal actin waves are connected with the “run” stage of cell body, whereas the fast ruffles at the leading front are involved in the “turn” stage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0220810
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Korea University Grant to TDY, the National Research Foundation of Korea (2016R1D1A1B03930591 to KJL, 2017R1A6A3A11031083 to TDY, and 2017R1C1B2010262 to YC), the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (HI14C3477 to KP and YC), the Institute for Basic Science (IBS-R023-D1 to WC and J-SP), MSIT (2019R1A2C4004804 to YC), and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (R00EB014879 to JL). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Yang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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