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Amoeba Movement

March 8, 2007

A listener asks: How do amoebas move, anyway?


Mysterious microbe mobility. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Despite having no legs and only one cell, amoebas can move purposefully. A listener asked how they do it. University of Iowa biologist David Soll explains that the amoeba extends part of its body forward, creating a pseudopod, or false foot. Pseudopods can form anywhere on the amoeba anytime, and Soll says they would, if they weren’t chemically regulated.

DAVID SOLL (University of Iowa):
There’s an expansion in front, and the inhibition of making false feet in the back, so that it can move in the right direction. And this is just becoming clear.

Exactly how this is regulated, and how the rest of the cell follows behind, remains a mystery. Soll and other researchers are trying to find out, because many of our bodies’ cells move in similar ways—including embryonic cells, which can cause birth defects if they make a false step.

If you’ve got a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-ISIT. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.