Unveiling the polarity of actin filaments by cryo-electron tomography

Bruno Martins, Simona Sorrentino, Wen Lu Chung, Meltem Tatli, Ohad Medalia, Matthias Eibauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The actin cytoskeleton plays a fundamental role in numerous cellular processes, such as cell motility, cytokinesis, and adhesion to the extracellular matrix. Revealing the polarity of individual actin filaments in intact cells would foster an unprecedented understanding of cytoskeletal processes and their associated mechanical forces. Cryo-electron tomography provides the means for high-resolution structural imaging of cells. However, the low signal-to-noise ratio of cryo-tomograms obscures the high frequencies, and therefore the polarity of actin filaments cannot be directly measured. Here, we developed a method that enables us to determine the polarity of actin filaments in cellular cryo-tomograms. We applied it to reveal the actin polarity distribution in focal adhesions, and show a linear relation between actin polarity and distance from the apical boundary of the adhesion site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-498.e4
Issue number5
StatePublished - 6 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • actin
  • actin filaments
  • cell adhesion
  • cryo-electron tomography
  • focal adhesions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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