Directed cell migration is usually thought to depend on the presence of long-range gradients of either chemoattractants or physical properties such as stiffness or adhesion. However, in vivo, chemical or mechanical gradients have not systematically been observed. Here we review recent in vitro experiments, which show that other types of spatial guidance cues can bias cell motility. Introducing local geometrical or mechanical anisotropy in the cell environment, such as adhesive/topographical microratchets or tilted micropillars, show that local and periodic external cues can direct cell motion. Together with modeling, these experiments suggest that cell motility can be viewed as a stochastic phenomenon, which can be biased by various types of local cues, leading to directional migration.
Keywords: active gels; directed cell motility; modeling; nucleus; protrusions; ratchet.
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