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Stick-slip dynamics of cell adhesion triggers spontaneous symmetry breaking and directional migration

By K. Hennig, I. Wang, P. Moreau, L. Valon, S. DeBeco, M. Coppey, Y. A. Miroshnikova, C. Albiges-Rizo, C. Favard, R. Voituriez, M. Balland

Posted 25 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/354696

Directional cell motility during organism and tissue development, homeostasis and disease requires symmetry breaking. This process relies on the ability of single cells to establish a front-rear polarity, and can occur in absence of external cues. The initiation of migration has been attributed to the spontaneous polarization of cytoskeleton components, while the spatio- temporal evolution of cytoskeletal forces arising from continuous mechanical cell-substrate interaction has yet to be resolved. Here, we establish a one- dimensional microfabricated migration assay that mimics complex in vivo fibrillar environment while being compatible with high-resolution force measurements, quantitative microscopy, and optogenetics. Quantification of morphometric and mechanical parameters reveals a generic stick-slip behavior initiated by contractility-dependent stochastic detachment of adhesive contacts at one side of the cell, which is sufficient to drive directional cell motility in absence of pre-established cytoskeleton polarity or morphogen gradients. A theoretical model validates the crucial role of adhesion dynamics during spontaneous symmetry breaking, proposing that the examined phenomenon can emerge independently of a complex self-polarizing system.

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