Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification and characterization of a set of conserved and new regulators of cytoskeletal organization, cell morphology and migration

Siau Wei Bai15, Maria Teresa Herrera-Abreu1, Jennifer L Rohn2, Victor Racine35, Virginia Tajadura1, Narendra Suryavanshi1, Stephanie Bechtel4, Stefan Wiemann4, Buzz Baum2 and Anne J Ridley1*

Author Affiliations

1 Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, King's College London, New Hunt's House, Guy's Campus, London SE1 1UL, UK

2 MRC Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

3 Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, 61 Biopolis Drive, Proteos, 138673, Singapore

4 Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, Heidelberg, Germany

5 SWB, Institut Pasteur, 25-28 rue du Docteur Roux, 75015 PARIS; VR, Fluofarma, 2 rue Robert Escarpit, 33600 Pessac, France

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BMC Biology 2011, 9:54  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-54

Published: 11 August 2011



Cell migration is essential during development and in human disease progression including cancer. Most cell migration studies concentrate on known or predicted components of migration pathways.


Here we use data from a genome-wide RNAi morphology screen in Drosophila melanogaster cells together with bioinformatics to identify 26 new regulators of morphology and cytoskeletal organization in human cells. These include genes previously implicated in a wide range of functions, from mental retardation, Down syndrome and Huntington's disease to RNA and DNA-binding genes. We classify these genes into seven groups according to phenotype and identify those that affect cell migration. We further characterize a subset of seven genes, FAM40A, FAM40B, ARC, FMNL3, FNBP3/FBP11, LIMD1 and ZRANB1, each of which has a different effect on cell shape, actin filament distribution and cell migration. Interestingly, in several instances closely related isoforms with a single Drosophila homologue have distinct phenotypes. For example, FAM40B depletion induces cell elongation and tail retraction defects, whereas FAM40A depletion reduces cell spreading.


Our results identify multiple regulators of cell migration and cytoskeletal signalling that are highly conserved between Drosophila and humans, and show that closely related paralogues can have very different functions in these processes.