Force transmission during adhesion-independent migration

Nat Cell Biol. 2015 Apr;17(4):524-9. doi: 10.1038/ncb3134. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


When cells move using integrin-based focal adhesions, they pull in the direction of motion with large, ∼100 Pa, stresses that contract the substrate. Integrin-mediated adhesions, however, are not required for in vivo confined migration. During focal adhesion-free migration, the transmission of propelling forces, and their magnitude and orientation, are not understood. Here, we combine theory and experiments to investigate the forces involved in adhesion-free migration. Using a non-adherent blebbing cell line as a model, we show that actin cortex flows drive cell movement through nonspecific substrate friction. Strikingly, the forces propelling the cell forward are several orders of magnitude lower than during focal-adhesion-based motility. Moreover, the force distribution in adhesion-free migration is inverted: it acts to expand, rather than contract, the substrate in the direction of motion. This fundamentally different mode of force transmission may have implications for cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions during migration in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma 256, Walker
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Friction / physiology*
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Stress, Mechanical*


  • Actins
  • Integrins