Mechanics and polarity in cell motility
Thursday 12th May 2016
Ambrosi, D.; Zanzottera, A.
The motility of a fish keratocyte on a flat substrate exhibits two distinct regimes: the non- migrating and the migrating one. In both configurations the shape is fixed in time and, when the cell is moving, the velocity is constant in magnitude and direction. Transition from a stable configuration to the other one can be produced by a mechanical or chemotactic perturbation. In order to point out the mechanical nature of such a bistable behaviour, we focus on the actin dynamics inside the cell using a minimal mathematical model. While the protein diffusion, recruitment and segregation govern the polarization process, we show that the free actin mass balance, driven by diffusion, and the polymerized actin retrograde flow, regulated by the active stress, are sufficient ingredients to account for the motile bistability. The length and velocity of the cell are predicted on the basis of the parameters of the substrate and of the cell itself. The key physical ingredient of the theory is the exchange among actin phases at the edges of the cell, that plays a central role both in kinematics and in dynamics.
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