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by Keyword: Migration


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Caballero, D., Palacios, L., Freitas, P. P., Samitier, J., (2017). An interplay between matrix anisotropy and actomyosin contractility regulates 3D-directed cell migration Advanced Functional Materials 27, (35), 1702322

Directed cell migration is essential for many biological processes, such as embryonic development or cancer progression. Cell contractility and adhesion to the extracellular matrix are known to regulate cell locomotion machinery. However, the cross-talk between extrinsic and intrinsic factors at the molecular level on the biophysical mechanism of three dimensional (3D)-directed cell migration is still unclear. In this work, a novel physiologically relevant in vitro model of the extracellular microenvironment is used to reveal how the topological anisotropy of the extracellular matrix synergizes with actomyosin contractility to modulate directional cell migration morphodynamics. This study shows that cells seeded on polarized 3D matrices display asymmetric protrusion morphodynamics and in-vivo-like phenotypes. It is found that matrix anisotropy significantly enhances cell directionality, but strikingly, not the invasion distance of cells. In Rho-inhibited cells, matrix anisotropy counteracts the lack of actomyosin-driven forces to stabilize cell directionality suggesting a myosin-II-independent mechanism for cell guidance. Finally, this study shows that on isotropic 3D environments, cell directionality is independent of actomyosin contractility. Altogether, this study provides novel quantitative data on the biomechanical regulation of directional cell motion and shows the important regulatory role of matrix anisotropy and actomyosin forces to guide cell migration in 3D microenvironments.

Keywords: Anisotropy, Directed cell migration, Extracellular matrices, Migration modes, Three dimensional microenvironments


Caballero, D., Samitier, J., (2017). Topological control of extracellular matrix growth: A native-like model for cell morphodynamics studies ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 9, (4), 4159-4170

The interaction of cells with their natural environment influences a large variety of cellular phenomena, including cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration. The complex extracellular matrix network has challenged the attempts to replicate in vitro the heterogeneity of the cell environment and has threatened, in general, the relevance of in vitro studies. In this work, we describe a new and extremely versatile approach to generate native-like extracellular matrices with controlled morphologies for the in vitro study of cellular processes. This general approach combines the confluent culture of fibroblasts with microfabricated guiding templates to direct the three-dimensional growth of well-defined extracellular networks which recapitulate the structural and biomolecular complexity of features typically found in vivo. To evaluate its performance, we studied fundamental cellular processes, including cell cytoskeleton organization, cell-matrix adhesion, proliferation, and protrusions morphodynamics. In all cases, we found striking differences depending on matrix architecture and, in particular, when compared to standard two-dimensional environments. We also assessed whether the engineered matrix networks influenced cell migration dynamics and locomotion strategy, finding enhanced migration efficiency for cells seeded on aligned matrices. Altogether, our methodology paves the way to the development of high-performance models of the extracellular matrix for potential applications in tissue engineering, diagnosis, or stem-cell biology.

Keywords: Biomimetics, Cell migration, Engineered cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, In vitro model


Ladoux, B., Mège, R. M., Trepat, X., (2016). Front-rear polarization by mechanical cues: From single cells to tissues Trends in Cell Biology 26, (6), 420-433

Directed cell migration is a complex process that involves front-rear polarization, characterized by cell adhesion and cytoskeleton-based protrusion, retraction, and contraction of either a single cell or a cell collective. Single cell polarization depends on a variety of mechanochemical signals including external adhesive cues, substrate stiffness, and confinement. In cell ensembles, coordinated polarization of migrating tissues results not only from the application of traction forces on the extracellular matrix but also from the transmission of mechanical stress through intercellular junctions. We focus here on the impact of mechanical cues on the establishment and maintenance of front-rear polarization from single cell to collective cell behaviors through local or large-scale mechanisms.

Keywords: Cell forces, Cell polarity, Collective cell migration, Mechanobiology, Micropatterning, Substrate stiffness


Garcia-Calero, Elena, Botella-Lopez, Arancha, Bahamonde, Olga, Perez-Balaguer, Ariadna, Martinez, Salvador, (2016). FoxP2 protein levels regulate cell morphology changes and migration patterns in the vertebrate developing telencephalon Brain Structure and Function 221, (6), 2905-2917

In the mammalian telencephalon, part of the progenitor cells transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology as they invade the mantle zone. This associates with changing patterns of radial migration. However, the molecules implicated in these morphology transitions are not well known. In the present work, we analyzed the function of FoxP2 protein in this process during telencephalic development in vertebrates. We analyzed the expression of FoxP2 protein and its relation with cell morphology and migratory patterns in mouse and chicken developing striatum. We observed FoxP2 protein expressed in a gradient from the subventricular zone to the mantle layer in mice embryos. In the FoxP2 low domain cells showed multipolar migration. In the striatal mantle layer where FoxP2 protein expression is higher, cells showed locomoting migration and bipolar morphology. In contrast, FoxP2 showed a high and homogenous expression pattern in chicken striatum, thus bipolar morphology predominated. Elevation of FoxP2 in the striatal subventricular zone by in utero electroporation promoted bipolar morphology and impaired multipolar radial migration. In mouse cerebral cortex we obtained similar results. FoxP2 promotes transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology by means of gradiental expression in mouse striatum and cortex. Together these results indicate a role of FoxP2 differential expression in cell morphology control of the vertebrate telencephalon.

Keywords: Radial migration, Bipolar morphology, Striatum, Cortex


Silva, N., Muñoz, C., Diaz-Marcos, J., Samitier, J., Yutronic, N., Kogan, M. J., Jara, P., (2016). In situ visualization of the local photothermal effect produced on Nanoscale Research Letters 11, 180

Evidence of guest migration in α-cyclodextrin-octylamine (α-CD-OA) inclusion compound (IC) generated via plasmonic heating of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) has been studied. In this report, we demonstrate local effects generated by laser-mediated irradiation of a sample of AuNPs covered with inclusion compounds on surface-derivatized glass under liquid conditions by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Functionalized AuNPs on the glass and covered by the ICs were monitored by recording images by AFM during 5 h of irradiation, and images showed that after irradiation, a drastic decrease in the height of the AuNPs occurred. The absorption spectrum of the irradiated sample showed a hypsochromic shift from 542 to 536 nm, evidence suggesting that much of the population of nanoparticles lost all of the parts of the overlay of ICs due to the plasmonic heat generated by the irradiation. Mass spectrometry matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) performed on a sample containing a collection of drops obtained from the surface of the functionalized glass provided evidence that the irradiation lead to disintegration of the ICs and therefore exit of the octylamine molecule (the guest) from the cyclodextrin cavity (the matrix).

Keywords: Cyclodextrin inclusion compound, Gold nanoparticles, Guest migration, Plasmonic heating


Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 72, (14), 2719-2737

Olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation emerged some years ago as a promising therapeutic strategy to repair injured spinal cord. However, inhibitory molecules are present for long periods of time in lesioned spinal cord, inhibiting both OEC migration and axonal regrowth. Two families of these molecules, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG) and myelin-derived inhibitors (MAIs), are able to trigger inhibitory responses in lesioned axons. Mounting evidence suggests that OEC migration is inhibited by myelin. Here we demonstrate that OEC migration is largely inhibited by CSPGs and that inhibition can be overcome by the bacterial enzyme Chondroitinase ABC. In parallel, we have generated a stable OEC cell line overexpressing the Nogo receptor (NgR) ectodomain to reduce MAI-associated inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Results indicate that engineered cells migrate longer distances than unmodified OECs over myelin or oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein (OMgp)-coated substrates. In addition, they also show improved migration in lesioned spinal cord. Our results provide new insights toward the improvement of the mechanisms of action and optimization of OEC-based cell therapy for spinal cord lesion.

Keywords: Olfactory ensheathing cells, Traction force microscopy, Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, Cell migration, Nogo receptor ectodomain


Mrkonji, Garcia-Elias, A., Pardo-Pastor, C., Bazellières, E., Trepat, X., Vriens, J., Ghosh, D., Voets, T., Vicente, R., Valverde, M. A., (2015). TRPV4 participates in the establishment of trailing adhesions and directional persistence of migrating cells Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology 467, (10), 2107-2119

Calcium signaling participates in different cellular processes leading to cell migration. TRPV4, a non-selective cation channel that responds to mechano-osmotic stimulation and heat, is also involved in cell migration. However, the mechanistic involvement of TRPV4 in cell migration is currently unknown. We now report that expression of the mutant channel TRPV4-121AAWAA (lacking the phosphoinositide-binding site 121KRWRK125 and the response to physiological stimuli) altered HEK293 cell migration. Altered migration patterns included periods of fast and persistent motion followed by periods of stalling and turning, and the extension of multiple long cellular protrusions. TRPV4-WT overexpressing cells showed almost complete loss of directionality with frequent turns, no progression, and absence of long protrusions. Traction microscopy revealed higher tractions forces in the tail of TRPV4-121AAWAA than in TRPV4-WT expressing cells. These results are consistent with a defective and augmented tail retraction in TRPV4-121AAWAA- and TRPV4-WT-expressing cells, respectively. The activity of calpain, a protease implicated in focal adhesion (FA) disassembly, was decreased in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing cells. Consistently, larger focal adhesions were seen in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing HEK293 cells, a result that was also reproduced in T47D and U87 cells. Similarly, overexpression of the pore-dead mutant TRPV4-M680D resumed the TRPV4-121AAWAA phenotype presenting larger FA. The migratory phenotype obtained in HEK293 cells overexpressing TRPV4-121AAWAA was mimicked by knocking-down TRPC1, a cationic channel that participates in cell migration. Together, our results point to the participation of TRPV4 in the dynamics of trailing adhesions, a function that may require the interplay of TRPV4 with other cation channels or proteins present at the FA sites.

Keywords: Calcium, Calpain, Focal adhesion, Migration, Traction forces, TRPV4


Estévez, M., Martínez, Elena, Yarwood, S. J., Dalby, M. J., Samitier, J., (2015). Adhesion and migration of cells responding to microtopography Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 103, (5), 1659-1668

It is known that cells respond strongly to microtopography. However, cellular mechanisms of response are unclear. Here, we study wild-type fibroblasts responding to 25 μm2 posts and compare their response to that of FAK-/- fibroblasts and fibroblasts with PMA treatment to stimulate protein kinase C (PKC) and the small g-protein Rac. FAK knockout cells modulated adhesion number and size in a similar way to cells on topography; that is, they used more, smaller adhesions, but migration was almost completely stalled demonstrating the importance of FAK signaling in contact guidance and adhesion turnover. Little similarity, however, was observed to PKC stimulated cells and cells on the topography. Interestingly, with PKC stimulation the cell nuclei became highly deformable bringing focus on these surfaces to the study of metastasis. Surfaces that aid the study of cellular migration are important in developing understanding of mechanisms of wound healing and repair in aligned tissues such as ligament and tendon.

Keywords: Adhesion, Cell migration, Cell morphology, Focal adhesion kinase, Microstructures


Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Sunyer, Raimon, Muñoz, José J., Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Mapping forces and kinematics during collective cell migration Methods in Cell Biology - Biophysical Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Wilson, L., Tran, P.), Academic Press (Santa Barbara, USA) 125, 309-330

Abstract Fundamental biological processes including morphogenesis and tissue repair require cells to migrate collectively. In these processes, epithelial or endothelial cells move in a cooperative manner coupled by intercellular junctions. Ultimately, the movement of these multicellular systems occurs through the generation of cellular forces, exerted either on the substrate via focal adhesions (cell–substrate forces) or on neighboring cells through cell–cell junctions (cell–cell forces). Quantitative measurements of multicellular forces and kinematics with cellular or subcellular resolution have become possible only in recent years. In this chapter, we describe some of these techniques, which include particle image velocimetry to map cell velocities, traction force microscopy to map forces exerted by cells on the substrate, and monolayer stress microscopy to map forces within and between cells. We also describe experimental protocols to perform these measurements. The combination of these techniques with high-resolution imaging tools and molecular perturbations will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying collective cell migration in health and disease.

Keywords: Collective cell migration, Monolayer stress microscopy, Traction force microscopy


Nocentini, S., Reginensi, D., Garcia, S., Carulla, P., Moreno-Flores, Wandosell, F., Trepat, X., Bribian, A., Del Rí, (2012). Myelin-associated proteins block the migration of olfactory ensheathing cells: an in vitro study using single-cell tracking and traction force microscopy Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 69, (10), 1689-1703

Newly generated olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). Thus, OEC transplantation has emerged as a promising therapy for spinal cord injuries and for other neural diseases. However, these cells do not present a uniform population, but instead a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses including adhesion, repulsion, and crossover during cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. Here, we demonstrated that rodent OECs express all the components of the Nogo receptor complex and that their migration is blocked by myelin. Next, we used cell tracking and traction force microscopy to analyze OEC migration and its mechanical properties over myelin. Our data relate the decrease of traction force of OEC with lower migratory capacity over myelin, which correlates with changes in the F-actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion distribution. Lastly, OEC traction force and migratory capacity is enhanced after cell incubation with the Nogo receptor inhibitor NEP1-40.

Keywords: Ensheathing glia, Traction force, microscopy, Migration, Myelin-associated inhibitors


Comelles, J., Hortigüela, V., Samitier, J., Martinez, E., (2012). Versatile gradients of covalently bound proteins on microstructured substrates Langmuir 28, (38), 13688-13697

In this work, we propose an easy method to produce highly tunable gradients of covalently bound proteins on topographically modified poly(methyl methacrylate). We used a rnicrofluidic approach to obtain linear gradients with high slope (0.5 pmol.cm(-2).mm(-1)), relevant at the single-cell level. These protein gradients were characterized using fluorescence microscopy and surface plasmon resonance. Both experimental results and theoretical modeling on the protein gradients generated have proved them to be highly reproducible, stable up to 7 days, and easily tunable. This method enables formation of versatile cell culture platforms combining both complex biochemical and physical cues in an attempt to approach in vitro cell culture methods to in vivo cellular microenvironments.

Keywords: Cell-migration, Microfluidic channel, Surface, Streptavidin, Molecules, Topography, Mechanisms, Generation, Responses, Guidance


Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., (2011). Plithotaxis and emergent dynamics in collective cellular migration Trends in Cell Biology 21, (11), 638-646

For a monolayer sheet to migrate cohesively, it has long been suspected that each constituent cell must exert physical forces not only upon its extracellular matrix but also upon neighboring cells. The first comprehensive maps of these distinct force components reveal an unexpected physical picture. Rather than showing smooth and systematic variation within the monolayer, the distribution of physical forces is dominated by heterogeneity, both in space and in time, which emerges spontaneously, propagates over great distances, and cooperates over the span of many cell bodies. To explain the severe ruggedness of this force landscape and its role in collective cell guidance, the well known mechanisms of chemotaxis, durotaxis, haptotaxis are clearly insufficient. In a broad range of epithelial and endothelial cell sheets, collective cell migration is governed instead by a newly discovered emergent mechanism of innately collective cell guidance - plithotaxis.

Keywords: Positional information, Drosophila embryo, Sheet migration, Dpp gradient, Cells, Force, Morphogenesis, Transition, Identification, Proliferation