Collective cell migration

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2009;25:407-29. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.042308.113231.


For all animals, cell migration is an essential and highly regulated process. Cells migrate to shape tissues, to vascularize tissues, in wound healing, and as part of the immune response. Unfortunately, tumor cells can also become migratory and invade surrounding tissues. Some cells migrate as individuals, but many cell types will, under physiological conditions, migrate collectively in tightly or loosely associated groups. This includes invasive tumor cells. This review discusses different types of collective cell migration, including sheet movement, sprouting and branching, streams, and free groups, and highlights recent findings that provide insight into cells' organization and behavior. Cells performing collective migration share many cell biological characteristics with independently migrating cells but, by affecting one another mechanically and via signaling, these cell groups are subject to additional regulation and constraints. New properties that emerge from this connectivity can contribute to shaping, guiding, and ultimately ensuring tissue function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Polarity
  • Embryonic Development
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasms / pathology