Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Stick-slip dynamics of cell adhesion triggers spontaneous symmetry breaking and directional migration of mesenchymal cells on one-dimensional lines

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Science Advances  03 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 1, eaau5670
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau5670


Directional cell motility relies on the ability of single cells to establish a front-rear polarity and can occur in the absence of external cues. The initiation of migration has often been attributed to the spontaneous polarization of cytoskeleton components, while the spatiotemporal evolution of cell-substrate interaction forces has yet to be resolved. Here, we establish a one-dimensional microfabricated migration assay that mimics the complex in vivo fibrillar environment while being compatible with high-resolution force measurements, quantitative microscopy, and optogenetics. Quantification of morphometric and mechanical parameters of NIH-3T3 fibroblasts and RPE1 epithelial cells reveals a generic stick-slip behavior initiated by contractility-dependent stochastic detachment of adhesive contacts at one side of the cell, which is sufficient to trigger cell motility in 1D in the absence of pre-established polarity. A theoretical model validates the crucial role of adhesion dynamics, proposing that front-rear polarity can emerge independently of a complex self-polarizing system.

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.

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