Biochemistry and biomechanics of cell motility

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2005;7:105-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bioeng.7.060804.100340.


Cell motility is an essential cellular process for a variety of biological events. The process of cell migration requires the integration and coordination of complex biochemical and biomechanical signals. The protrusion force at the leading edge of a cell is generated by the cytoskeleton, and this force generation is controlled by multiple signaling cascades. The formation of new adhesions at the front and the release of adhesions at the rear involve the outside-in and inside-out signaling mediated by integrins and other adhesion receptors. The traction force generated by the cell on the extracellular matrix (ECM) regulates cell-ECM adhesions, and the counter force exerted by ECM on the cell drives the migration. The polarity of cell migration can be amplified and maintained by the feedback loop between the cytoskeleton and cell-ECM adhesions. Cell migration in three-dimensional ECM has characteristics distinct from that on two-dimensional ECM. The migration of cells is initiated and modulated by external chemical and mechanical factors, such as chemoattractants and the mechanical forces acting on the cells and ECM, as well as the surface density, distribution, topography, and rigidity of the ECM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biochemistry / methods*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Focal Adhesions
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tissue Engineering


  • Actins