Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Frustration-induced phases in migrating cell clusters

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  12 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaar8483
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8483


Certain malignant cancer cells form clusters in a chemoattractant gradient, which can spontaneously show three different phases of motion: translational, rotational, and random. Guided by our experiments on the motion of two-dimensional clusters in vitro, we developed an agent-based model in which the cells form a cohesive cluster due to attractive and alignment interactions. We find that when cells at the cluster rim are more motile, all three phases of motion coexist, in agreement with our observations. Using the model, we show that the transitions between different phases are driven by competition between an ordered rim and a disordered core accompanied by the creation and annihilation of topological defects in the velocity field. The model makes specific predictions, which we verify with our experimental data. Our results suggest that heterogeneous behavior of individuals, based on local environment, can lead to novel, experimentally observed phases of collective motion.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text