The ruffling of the plasma membrane is a characteristic feature of many actively migrating cells. When the membrane is unable to attach to the substrate the membrane protrusion is recycled back in to the cell. Using time-lapse microscopy this gives the appearance of the membrane ruffling at the leading edge.
Time-lapse microscopy, with images taken every second, allows this process to be clearly visualised, as can be seen in the movie on the right.
The ruffling of membranes is thought to be controlled by a group of enzymes known as Rho GTPases, specifically RhoA, Rac1 and cdc42. When examined using the electron microscope, the structure of individual membrane ruffles can be clearly seen (marked by arrows).
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