R Shahapure, F Difato, A Laio, G Bisson, E Ercolini, L Amin, E Ferrari, V Torre
Polymerization of actin filaments is the primary source of motility in lamellipodia and it is controlled by a variety of regulatory proteins. The underlying molecular mechanisms are only partially understood and a precise determination of dynamical properties of force generation is necessary. Using optical tweezers, we have measured with millisecond (ms) temporal resolution and picoNewton (pN) sensitivity the force-velocity (Fv) relationship and the power dissipated by lamellipodia of dorsal root ganglia neurons. When force and velocity are averaged over 3-5 s, the Fv relationships can be flat. On a finer timescale, random occurrence of fast growth and subsecond retractions become predominant. The maximal power dissipated by lamellipodia over a silica bead with a diameter of 1 microm is 10(-16) W. Our results clarify the dynamical properties of force generation: i), force generation is a probabilistic process; ii), underlying biological events have a bandwidth up to at least 10 Hz; and iii), fast growth of lamellipodia leading edge alternates with local retractions.