Filopodial motility is critical for many biological processes, particularly for axon guidance. This motility is based on altering the F-actin-based cytoskeleton, but the mechanisms of how this occurs and the actin-associated proteins that function in this process remain unclear. We investigated two of these proteins found in filopodia, talin and vinculin, by inactivating them in subregions of chick dorsal root ganglia neuronal growth cones and by observing subsequent behavior by video-enhanced microscopy and quantitative morphometry. Microscale chromophore-assisted laser inactivation of talin resulted in the temporary cessation of filopodial extension and retraction. Inactivation of vinculin caused an increased incidence of filopodial bending and buckling within the laser spot but had no effect on extension or retraction. These findings show that talin acts in filopodial motility and may couple both extension and retraction to actin dynamics. They also suggest that vinculin is not required for filopodial extension and retraction but plays a role in the structural integrity of filopodia.

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