The chemotactic motion of eukaryotic cells such as leukocytes or metastatic cancer cells relies on membrane protrusions driven by the polymerization and depolymerization of actin. Here we show that the response of the actin system to a receptor stimulus is subject to a threshold value that varies strongly from cell to cell. Above the threshold, we observe pronounced cell-to-cell variability in the response amplitude. The polymerization time, however, is almost constant over the entire range of response amplitudes, while the depolymerization time increases with increasing amplitude. We show that cell-to-cell variability in the response amplitude correlates with the amount of Arp2/3, a protein that enhances actin polymerization. A time-delayed feedback model for the cortical actin concentration is consistent with all our observations and confirms the role of Arp2/3 in the observed cell-to-cell variability. Taken together, our observations highlight robust regulation of the actin response that enables a reliable timing of cell movement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)