Collective cell migration: guidance principles and hierarchies

Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Sep;25(9):556-66. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.06.003. Epub 2015 Jun 29.


Collective cell migration results from the establishment and maintenance of collective polarization, mechanocoupling, and cytoskeletal kinetics. The guidance of collective cell migration depends on a reciprocal process between cell-intrinsic multicellular organization with leader-follower cell behavior and results in mechanosensory integration of extracellular guidance cues. Important guidance mechanisms include chemotaxis, haptotaxis, durotaxis, and strain-induced mechanosensing to move cell groups along interfaces and paths of least resistance. Additional guidance mechanisms steering cell groups during specialized conditions comprise electrotaxis and passive drift. To form higher-order cell and tissue structures during morphogenesis and cancer invasion, these guidance principles act in parallel and are integrated for collective adaptation to and shaping of varying tissue environments. We review mechanochemical and electrical inputs and multiparameter signal integration underlying collective guidance, decision making, and outcome.

Keywords: collective migration; extracellular matrix; guidance cues; leader cells; mechanocoupling; signal integration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular