Cells on the move: a dialogue between polarization and motility

IUBMB Life. 2000 Feb;49(2):89-96. doi: 10.1080/15216540050022386.


Throughout evolution, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells have developed a variety of biochemical mechanisms to define the direction and proximity of extracellular stimuli. This process is essential for the cell to reply properly to the environmental cues that determine cell migration, proliferation, and differentiation. Chemotaxis is the cellular response to chemical attractants that direct cell migration, a process that plays a central role in many physiological situations, such as host immune responses, angiogenesis, wound healing, embryogenesis, and neuronal patterning, among others. In addition, cell migration takes part in pathological states, including inflammation and tumor metastasis. Indeed, tumor progression to invasion and metastasis depends on the active motility of the invading cancer cells and the endothelial cell bed during tumor neovascularization. Cell migration switches "off" and "on," based on quantitative differences in molecular components such as adhesion receptors, cytoskeletal linking proteins, and extracellular matrix ligands, and by regulating the affinity of membrane-bound chemoattractant receptors. A clear understanding of how cells sense chemoattractants is, therefore, of pivotal importance in the biology of the normal cell as well as in prevention of malignant cell invasion. Here we offer a perspective on cell migration that emphasizes the relationship between cell polarization and cell movement and the importance of the equilibrium between the signals that drive each process for the control of tumor cell invasion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis