Galvanotactic control of collective cell migration in epithelial monolayers

Nat Mater. 2014 Apr;13(4):409-17. doi: 10.1038/nmat3891. Epub 2014 Mar 9.


Many normal and pathological biological processes involve the migration of epithelial cell sheets. This arises from complex emergent behaviour resulting from the interplay between cellular signalling networks and the forces that physically couple the cells. Here, we demonstrate that collective migration of an epithelium can be interactively guided by applying electric fields that bias the underlying signalling networks. We show that complex, spatiotemporal cues are locally interpreted by the epithelium, resulting in rapid, coordinated responses such as a collective U-turn, divergent migration, and unchecked migration against an obstacle. We observed that the degree of external control depends on the size and shape of the cell population, and on the existence of physical coupling between cells. Together, our results offer design and engineering principles for the rational manipulation of the collective behaviour and material properties of a tissue.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / radiation effects
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cell Movement / radiation effects
  • Cell Separation / methods*
  • Dogs
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / radiation effects*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Micromanipulation / methods*
  • Radiation Dosage