The mesenchymal-amoeboid transition (MAT) was proposed as a mechanism for cancer cells to adapt their migration mode to their environment. While the molecular pathways involved in this transition are well documented, the role of the microenvironment in the MAT is still poorly understood. Here, we investigated how confinement and adhesion affect this transition. We report that, in the absence of focal adhesions and under conditions of confinement, mesenchymal cells can spontaneously switch to a fast amoeboid migration phenotype. We identified two main types of fast migration--one involving a local protrusion and a second involving a myosin-II-dependent mechanical instability of the cell cortex that leads to a global cortical flow. Interestingly, transformed cells are more prone to adopt this fast migration mode. Finally, we propose a generic model that explains migration transitions and predicts a phase diagram of migration phenotypes based on three main control parameters: confinement, adhesion, and contractility.
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