- Burnette DT, Schaefer AW, Ji L, Danuser G, Forscher P. Filopodial actin bundles are not necessary for microtubule advance into the peripheral domain of Aplysia neuronal growth cones. Nature cell biology. 2007 Dec;9(12). 1360-9. PMID: 18026092 [PubMed].
Filopodial actin bundles guide microtubule assembly in the growth cone peripheral (P) domain and retrograde actin-network flow simultaneously transports microtubules rearward. Therefore, microtubule-end position is determined by the sum of microtubule assembly and retrograde transport rates. However, how filopodia actually affect microtubule assembly dynamics is unknown. To address this issue we quantitatively assessed microtubule and actin dynamics before and after selective removal of filopodia. Filopodium removal had surprisingly little effect on retrograde actin-flow rates or underlying network structures, but resulted in an approximate doubling of peripheral microtubule density and deeper penetration of microtubules into the P domain. The latter stemmed from less efficient coupling of microtubules to remaining actin networks and not from a change in microtubule polymer dynamics. Loss of filopodia also resulted in increased lateral microtubule movements and a more randomized microtubule distribution in the P domain. In summary, filopodia do not seem to be formally required for microtubule advance; however, their presence ensures radial distribution of microtubules in the P domain and facilitates microtubule transport by retrograde flow. The resulting dynamic steady state has interesting implications for rapid microtubule-positioning responses in the P domain.