Supracellular contraction at the rear of neural crest cell groups drives collective chemotaxis

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Abstract

Collective cell chemotaxis, the directed migration of cell groups along gradients of soluble chemical cues, underlies various developmental and pathological processes. We use neural crest cells, a migratory embryonic stem cell population whose behavior has been likened to malignant invasion, to study collective chemotaxis in vivo. Studying Xenopus and zebrafish, we have shown that the neural crest exhibits a tensile actomyosin ring at the edge of the migratory cell group that contracts in a supracellular fashion. This contractility is polarized during collective cell chemotaxis: It is inhibited at the front but persists at the rear of the cell cluster. The differential contractility drives directed collective cell migration ex vivo and in vivo through the intercalation of rear cells. Thus, in neural crest cells, collective chemotaxis works by rear-wheel drive.

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