D Cojoc, F Difato, E Ferrari, RB Shahapure, J Laishram, M Righi, EM Di Fabrizio, V Torre
During neuronal differentiation, lamellipodia and filopodia explore the environment in search for the correct path to the axon's final destination. Although the motion of lamellipodia and filopodia has been characterized to an extent, little is known about the force they exert. In this study, we used optical tweezers to measure the force exerted by filopodia and lamellipodia with a millisecond temporal resolution. We found that a single filopodium exerts a force not exceeding 3 pN, whereas lamellipodia can exert a force up to 20 pN. Using metabolic inhibitors, we showed that no force is produced in the absence of actin polymerization and that development of forces larger than 3 pN requires microtubule polymerization. These results show that actin polymerization is necessary for force production and demonstrate that not only do neurons process information, but they also act on their environment exerting forces varying from tenths pN to tens of pN.