Collective cell movements drive embryonic development and tissue repair, and can cause disease. However, the mechanisms that coordinate the migration of groups of cells in vivo are unclear. Cells generate, transmit and sense mechanical forces to align their movements. Therefore, the machinery used by cells to generate force (cytoskeleton) and to transmit and sense mechanical signals (cell-cell adhesion) is critical for collective movement. Here, we review the components and organization of the cytoskeletal and cell-cell adhesive machineries, and how they are organized to promote collective cell movements in living animals. We discuss the signals that orchestrate molecular rearrangements necessary for coordinated cell motility, and we provide specific examples of movements both in the plane of the tissue (wound healing) and perpendicular to that plane (apical constriction).
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