Background: Alterations in cell migration are a hallmark of cancer cell invasion and metastasis. In vitro assays commonly used to study cell migration, including the scratch wound healing assay, Boyden chamber assay, and newly developed advanced systems with microfluidics, each have several disadvantages.
Findings: Here we describe an easy and cost-effective in vitro assay for cell migration employing cloning rings to create gaps in the cell monolayer ("ring cell migration assay"). The assay was used to quantitate innate differences in cell motility and the effect of various extracellular matrix proteins on migration of five cancer cell lines: U87 and U251N glioma cells, MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, and HeLa cervical cancer cells. Interestingly, collagen was a general promoter of cell migration for all five cancer cell lines, without affecting cell proliferation.
Conclusions: Taken together, the ring cell migration assay is an easy, convenient and cost-effective assay to study cell migration in vitro.