Surprising discovery sheds new light on how cell migration happens

Surprising discovery sheds new light on how cell migration happens

Since elongated cells have greater perimeters, most computer models have predicted the forces at the periphery of each cell are the most important for dictating its shape. Notbohm and Saraswathibhatla set out to test that theory in the lab. Their experiments used fluorescent imaging to assess forces at the periphery of each cell in a single layer of epithelial cells, a type of cells that line surfaces in the body like skin and blood vessels. They also placed the cells on a soft gel surface and analyzed how the gel deformed as cells migrated across it. The gel test allowed them to quantify traction, or how strongly the cells tugged on the surface. In addition, they used chemicals to decrease or increase forces produced by each cell and studied the effects of those changes. In the end, Notbohm says their experiments showed that, in fact, the force a cell applies to the surface beneath it primarily controls its shape. "This was quite surprising because the key factors affecting a cell's perimeter are underneath the cell. They are nowhere near the periphery of the cell," he says. And now, they can focus on what's important. Looking at the cell-substrate interface, Notbohm hopes to enable further advances in this area. "The good news is the general phenomena of the models is still correct. This discovery just changes our understanding about the theory," he says. "That's really important, because to eventually develop a new intervention to accelerate wound healing you need to understand the key factors in the cell that are affecting its shape and motion." Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison Journal reference: Saraswathibhatla, A & Notbohm, J . (2020) Tractions and Stress Fibers Control Cell Shape and Rearrangements in Collective Cell Migration. Physical Review X . doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.10.011016 .



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