A minimal physical model captures the shapes of crawling cells

E. Tjhung, A. Tiribocchi, D. Marenduzzo, M. E. Cates
2015 Nature Communications  
Cell motility in higher organisms (eukaryotes) is crucial to biological functions ranging from wound healing to immune response, and also implicated in diseases such as cancer. For cells crawling on hard surfaces, significant insights into motility have been gained from experiments replicating such motion in vitro. Such experiments show that crawling uses a combination of actin treadmilling (polymerization), which pushes the front of a cell forward, and myosin-induced stress (contractility),
more » ... ch retracts the rear. Here we present a simplified physical model of a crawling cell, consisting of a droplet of active polar fluid with contractility throughout, but treadmilling connected to a thin layer near the supporting wall. The model shows a variety of shapes and/or motility regimes, some closely resembling cases seen experimentally. Our work strongly supports the view that cellular motility exploits autonomous physical mechanisms whose operation does not need continuous regulatory effort.
doi:10.1038/ncomms6420 pmid:25607536 fatcat:4q3j5oqhv5fhrdspeqcwuuwjsm