Quantifying Modes of 3D Cell Migration

Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Dec;25(12):749-759. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.09.010. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Although it is widely appreciated that cells migrate in a variety of diverse environments in vivo, we are only now beginning to use experimental workflows that yield images with sufficient spatiotemporal resolution to study the molecular processes governing cell migration in 3D environments. Since cell migration is a dynamic process, it is usually studied via microscopy, but 3D movies of 3D processes are difficult to interpret by visual inspection. In this review, we discuss the technologies required to study the diversity of 3D cell migration modes with a focus on the visualization and computational analysis tools needed to study cell migration quantitatively at a level comparable to the analyses performed today on cells crawling on flat substrates.

Keywords: 3D cell migration; image analysis; image visualization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cell Surface Extensions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*