Analysis of actin filament network organization in lamellipodia by comparing experimental and simulated images
Protrusion of lamellipodia during cell migration depends on the assembly of actin network. The assembly mechanism, based on dendritic filament branching, has been investigated in reconstituted in vitro systems, but little is known about the dynamical and structural properties of the actin network in the lamellipodia of migrating cells. The length and orientation of filaments are difficult to measure directly in either optical or electron microscopy images because of the high filament density and overlapping of individual filaments. Here, we use the non-uniformity of optical images of the lamellipodia to extract information about the structural and dynamical properties of the underlying actin network. To determine the relationship between the image features and the properties of the network, we performed simulations of actin network assembly, based on the hypothesis of stochastic branching and capping of filaments, and produced computed 'fluorescence' and 'electron microscopy' images of the simulated network. By varying simulation parameters, in particular the actin Mament density, length and orientation, we closely reproduced the contrast and the characteristic diagonal criss-cross pattern observed in the experimental optical images. Thus, matching the images of the simulated network to the experimental images allowed us to estimate parameters of actin filament network in lamellipodia.