Surfing on Membrane Waves: Microvilli, Curved Membranes, and Immune Signaling

Ron Orbach, Xiaolei Su

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Microvilli are finger-like membrane protrusions, supported by the actin cytoskeleton, and found on almost all cell types. A growing body of evidence suggests that the dynamic lymphocyte microvilli, with their highly curved membranes, play an important role in signal transduction leading to immune responses. Nevertheless, challenges in modulating local membrane curvature and monitoring the high dynamicity of microvilli hampered the investigation of the curvature-generation mechanism and its functional consequences in signaling. These technical barriers have been partially overcome by recent advancements in adapted super-resolution microscopy. Here, we review the up-to-date progress in understanding the mechanisms and functional consequences of microvillus formation in T cell signaling. We discuss how the deformation of local membranes could potentially affect the organization of signaling proteins and their biochemical activities. We propose that curved membranes, together with the underlying cytoskeleton, shape microvilli into a unique compartment that sense and process signals leading to lymphocyte activation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2187
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 11 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Su lab for fruitful discussions. Funding. XS was supported by the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant, the Charles H. Hood Foundation Child Health Research Awards, the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation Research Grant, the Gilead Sciences Research Scholars Program in Hematology/Oncology, and the Rally Foundation a Collaborative Pediatric Cancer Research Awards Program.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Orbach and Su.


  • BAR protein
  • T-cell signaling
  • TCR
  • WASp
  • actin
  • membrane curvature
  • microvilli
  • super-resolution microscopy


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