Collective cell migration without proliferation: density determines cell velocity and wave velocity



Tlili S., Gauquelin E., Li B., Cardoso O., Ladoux B., Delanoë-Ayari H., Graner F.



Royal Society Open Science

2018 May 1


Collective cell migration contributes to embryogenesis, wound healing and tumour metastasis. Cell monolayer migration experiments help in understanding what determines the movement of cells far from the leading edge. Inhibiting cell proliferation limits cell density increase and prevents jamming; we observe long-duration migration and quantify space-time characteristics of the velocity profile over large length scales and time scales. Velocity waves propagate backwards and their frequency depends only on cell density at the moving front.
Both cell average velocity and wave velocity increase linearly with the cell effective radius regardless of the distance to the front. Inhibiting lamellipodia decreases cell velocity while waves either disappear or have a lower frequency. Our model combines conservation laws, monolayer mechanical properties and a phenomenological coupling between strain and polarity: advancing cells pull on their followers, which then become polarized. With reasonable values of parameters, this model agrees with several of our experimental observations.
Together, our experiments and model disantangle the respective contributions of active velocity and of proliferation in monolayer  migration, explain how cells maintain their polarity far from the moving front, and highlight the importance of strain-polarity coupling and density in long-range information propagation.