Rear-polarized Wnt5a-receptor-actin-myosinpolarity (WRAMP) structures promote the speed and persistence of directional cell migration

Mary Katherine Connacher, Jian Wei Tay, and Natalie G. Ahn

Molecular Biology of the Cell, 28, 1924-1936 (2017)


In contrast to events at the cell leading edge, rear-polarized mechanisms that control directional cell migration are poorly defined. Previous work described a new intracellular complex, the Wnt5a-receptor-actomyosin polarity (WRAMP) structure, which coordinates the polarized localization of MCAM, actin, and myosin IIB in a Wnt5a-induced manner. However, the polarity and function for the WRAMP structure during cell movement were not determined. Here we characterize WRAMP structures during extended cell migration using live-cell imaging. The results demonstrate that cells undergoing prolonged migration show WRAMP structures stably polarized at the rear, where they are strongly associated with enhanced speed and persistence of directional movement. Strikingly, WRAMP structures form transiently, with cells displaying directional persistence during periods when they are present and cells changing directions randomly when they are absent. Cells appear to pause locomotion when WRAMP structures disassemble and then migrate in new directions after reassembly at a different location, which forms the new rear. We conclude that WRAMP structures represent a rear-directed cellular mechanism to control directional migration and that their ability to form dynamically within cells may control changes in direction during extended migration.

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