Cellular protrusions are highly dynamic structures involved in fundamental processes, including cell migration and invasion. For a cell to migrate, its leading edge must form protrusions, and then adhere or retract. The spatial and temporal coordination of protrusions and retraction is yet to be fully understood. The study of protrusion dynamics mainly relies on live-microscopy often coupled to fluorescent labeling. Here we report the use of an alternative, label-free, quantitative and rapid assay to analyze protrusion dynamics in a cell population based on the real-time recording of cell activity by means of electronic sensors. Cells are seeded on a plate covered with electrodes and their shape changes map into measured impedance variations. Upon growth factor stimulation the impedance increases due to protrusive activity and decreases following retraction. Compared to microscopy-based methods, impedance measurements are suitable to high-throughput studies on different cell lines, growth factors and chemical compounds. We present data indicating that this assay lends itself to dissect the biochemical signaling pathways controlling adhesive protrusions. Indeed, we show that the protrusion phase is sustained by actin polymerization, directly driven by growth factor stimulation. Contraction instead mainly relies on myosin action, pointing at a pivotal role of myosin in lamellipodia retraction.
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