Amir Moayed

Understanding Actin Dynamics and Organization in FIlopodia Using Cryo-Electron Tomography

Filopodia are finger-like actin based extensions in migrating cells. These cytoplasmic projections are involved in perceiving the environment, interacting with extracellular particles for phagocytosis, anchoring the cell to the substratum, and responding to chemoattractants. In eukaryotic cells, proper actin organization and interaction with the membrane and binding proteins is crucial for filopodia function. Despite having a general understanding of the various functions associated with filopodia, there is not much known about how actin organization and interaction with the membrane at the leading edge allows the cell to carry out these processes. To address this question, I will use cryo-electron tomography to visualize the actin networks of mammalian cell filopodia. I will generate segmentation models highlighting actin filaments, actin bundling factors, the plasma membrane and potential actin-plasma membrane connections in the tomograms. Ultimately, I want to use subtomogram averaging on the bundling factors and actin membrane interactors to increase the resolution and potentially link these unknown densities to previously described proteins. Through my research, I hope to reveal the small intricacies underlying the actin organization in filopodia to better understand cancer cell progression and metastasis.

Message to Sponsor

This experience helped me grow as a scholar because I was able to advance my scientific research and carry out experiments and analyze data on my own. This experience gave me much more confidence in my own abilities to be an independent researcher and find solutions to the problems I encounter on my own. Furthermore, I would like to personally thank the Pergo Fund for giving me this opportunity to carry out independent research. This research is a crucial aspect of my honors thesis that I will continue my senior year.
  • Major: Molecular Cell Biology, Economics
  • Sponsor: Pergo Fund
  • Mentor: David Drubin