Most eukaryotic cells can crawl over surfaces. In general, this motility requires three sequential actions: polymerization at the leading edge, adhesion to the substrate, and retraction at the rear. Recent in vitro experiments with extracts from spermatozoa from the nematode Ascaris suum suggest that retraction forces are generated by depolymerization of the major sperm protein cytoskeleton. Combining polymer entropy with a simple kinetic model for disassembly we propose a model for disassembly-induced retraction that fits the in vitro experimental data. This model explains the mechanism by which disassembly of the cytoskeleton generates the force necessary to pull the cell body forward and suggests further experiments that can test the validity of the models.
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