BioEssays review published.
Our BioEssay review on how language influences our understanding of cell motility has been published. Here is an excerpt from the full text:
The lack of a concise and consistently applied vocabulary to describe dynamic membrane protrusions has become an impediment to the study of cell motility. Specialized protrusions are used by many unicellular eukaryotes for feeding, mating, and evading predators, activities that are central to carbon cycling through global food webs. Human cells also produce dynamic extensions that mediate physical interactions with the environment, including: nerve growth cones, the leading edges of migrating immune cells, and filamentous protrusions with a variety of functions including cell-to-cell signaling, and cell protrusions that support migration of individual cells as well as the coordinated movement of cell sheets during development.
Unfortunately, most of the words we use for protrusions were coined based on morphology without regard to function or the molecular mechanism. We now know that similar-looking structures can be formed by different molecular mechanisms and, conversely, that protrusions with distinct morphologies may be produced by the same molecular machinery. Some words, therefore, can mean more to readers and listeners than we intend. Here, we define some words commonly used to describe cell protrusions, and discuss how their shifting definitions cloud our thinking and can impede interpretation and comparison of experimental results. We suggest that a new and more concise vocabulary, based on function and assembly mechanism as well as gross morphology, would decrease confusion among researchers just entering the field and streamline communication among those who have been around for a while.