Prespecification and plasticity: shifting mechanisms of cell migration

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2004 Feb;16(1):14-23. doi: 10.1016/


Cell migration is a universal process involving different morphologies and mechanisms in different cell types and tissue environments. Prespecified cell-type-specific patterns of cell migration can be classified into single cell migration (amoeboid, mesenchymal) and collective migration modes (cell sheets, strands, tubes, clusters). These intrinsic molecular programs are associated with a characteristic structure of the actin cytoskeleton, as well as the cell-type-specific use of integrins, matrix-degrading enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases and serine proteases), cell-cell adhesion molecules (cadherins and activated leukocyte adhesion molecule), and signaling towards the cytoskeleton (carried out by RHO GTPases). In response to the gain or loss of these key molecular determinants, significant adaptation reactions can modify the cell's shape, pattern, and migration mechanism; examples of this include the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, mesenchymal-amoeboid transition and collective-amoeboid transition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mesoderm / metabolism


  • Integrins