Cell membranes serve many functions, providing protection and transporting materials in and out of our cells – thanks largely to their 2-dimensional fluid-like behavior.
Regular cellular processes such as cell migration, infection, signaling, adhesion, and cell division lead to localized membrane ‘stretching,’ causing membrane flow to such sites to relax increased membrane tension.
Until now, how rapidly the cell membrane flows to relax such gradients has been unclear. Recent work suggested that the flows are very slow, confining membrane tension changes to small areas on the cell surface.
Published in Science Advances, a collaboration between the Karatekin and Zenisek labs at Yale School of Medicine, and the Machta lab at the Department of Physics, has discovered that cell membranes in fact flow at vastly different speeds, reflecting the needs of different cell types.
The results suggest that the speed with which the cell membrane flows may be adapted to the way membranes are trafficked and recycled in different cell types.
By Jon Atherton