Front-Rear Polarization by Mechanical Cues: From Single Cells to Tissues

Trends Cell Biol. 2016 Jun;26(6):420-433. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2016.02.002. Epub 2016 Feb 23.


Directed cell migration is a complex process that involves front-rear polarization, characterized by cell adhesion and cytoskeleton-based protrusion, retraction, and contraction of either a single cell or a cell collective. Single cell polarization depends on a variety of mechanochemical signals including external adhesive cues, substrate stiffness, and confinement. In cell ensembles, coordinated polarization of migrating tissues results not only from the application of traction forces on the extracellular matrix but also from the transmission of mechanical stress through intercellular junctions. We focus here on the impact of mechanical cues on the establishment and maintenance of front-rear polarization from single cell to collective cell behaviors through local or large-scale mechanisms.

Keywords: cell forces; cell polarity; collective cell migration; mechanobiology; micropatterning; substrate stiffness.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Organ Specificity*