Collective cell migration in morphogenesis and cancer

Int J Dev Biol. 2004;48(5-6):441-9. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.041821pf.


The movement of cells that maintain cell-cell junctions yet protrude along or within tissues is an important mechanism for cell positioning in morphogenesis, tissue repair and cancer. Collective cell migration shares similarities but also important differences to individually migrating cells. Coherent groups of cells are arranged and held together by cell-cell adhesion molecules, including cadherins, integrins, ALCAM and NCAM. Integrins of the beta 1 and beta 3 families further provide polarized interactions with the extracellular tissue environment, while matrix-degrading proteases become focalized to substrate contacts to widen tissue space for the advancing cell mass. By generating one functional unit, in contrast to individual cell migration, collective migration provides the active and passive translocation of mobile and non-mobile cells, respectively. This review highlights cellular and molecular principles of collective migration in the context of morphogenic tissue patterning and tumor cell invasion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Movement
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Integrin beta3 / metabolism
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Transport
  • Time Factors


  • Integrin beta1
  • Integrin beta3
  • Integrins
  • Collagen