Can mesenchymal cells undergo collective cell migration? The case of the neural crest

Cell Adh Migr. Nov-Dec 2011;5(6):490-8. doi: 10.4161/cam.5.6.18623.


Cell migration is critical for proper development of the embryo and is also used by many cell types to perform their physiological function. For instance, cell migration is essential for immune cells to monitor the body and for epithelial cells to heal a wound whereas, in cancer cells, acquisition of migratory capabilities is a critical step towards malignancy. Migratory cells are often categorized into two groups: mesenchymal cells, produced by an epithelium-to-mesenchyme transition, that undergo solitary migration and epithelial-like cells which migrate collectively. However, on some occasions, mesenchymal cells may travel in large, dense groups and exhibit key features of collectively migrating cells such as coordination and cooperation. Here, using data published on Neural Crest cells, a highly invasive mesenchymal cell population that extensively migrate throughout the embryo, we explore the idea that other mesenchymal cells, including cancer cells, might be able to undergo collective cell migration under certain conditions and discuss how they could do so.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Nervous System / cytology
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Neural Crest / cytology*