The mechanism of cellular migration mode switching

When faced with difficult terrain, off-road vehicles can switch from two- to four-wheel drive to keep moving forward. Similarly, cell migration can be driven either by protrusion-directed crawling, or by contractile pulling forces, but how the cell switches between these two methods remains a mystery. A collaborative study led by MBI doctoral student Tianchi Chen and Professor Benoit Ladoux of the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI) at the National University of Singapore, has uncovered that the direction in which actin filaments flow within the cell allows it to sense the physical curvature of its surroundings, and this directional flow is the key switch that determines which method of migration is selected. The work was published in the April 2019 issue of Nature Physics.