Neural crest cell galvanotaxis: new data and a novel approach to the analysis of both galvanotaxis and chemotaxis

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1991;19(2):121-33. doi: 10.1002/cm.970190207.


The galvanotaxis response of neural crest cells that had migrated out of the neural tube of a 56-hr-old quail embryo onto glass coverslips was observed using time-lapse video microscopy. These cells exhibit a track velocity of about 7 microns/min and actively translocate toward the negative pole of an imposed DC electric field. This nonrandom migration could be detected for fields as low as 7 mV/mm (0.4 mV/cell length). We find that this directional migration is independent of the speed of migration and have generated a rather simple mathematical equation that fits these data. We find that the number of cells that translocate at a given angle, phi, with respect to the field is given by the equation N(phi) = exp(a0 + a1cos phi), where a1 is linearly proportional to the electric field strength for fields less than 390 mV/mm with a constant of proportionality equal to KG, the galvanotaxis constant. We show that KG = (150 mV/mm)-1, and at this field strength the cellular response is approximately half maximal. This approach to cellular translocation data analysis is generalizable to other directed movements such as chemotaxis and allows the direct comparison of different types of directed movements This analysis requires that the response of every cell, rather than averages of cellular responses, is reported. Once an equation for N(phi) is derived, several characteristics of the cellular response can be determined. Specifically, we describe 1) the critical field strength (390 mV/mm) below which the cellular response exhibits a simple, linear dependence on field strength (for larger field strengths, an inhibitory constant can be used to fit the data, suggesting that larger field strengths influence a second cellular target that inhibits the first); and 2) the amount of information the cell must obtain in order to generate the observed asymmetry in the translocation distribution (for a field strength of 100 mV/mm, 0.3 bits of information is required).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Coturnix
  • Electric Conductivity / physiology
  • Female
  • Mathematics
  • Neural Crest / cytology
  • Neural Crest / physiology*