Reconstitution of cell migration at a glance

J Cell Sci. 2019 Feb 11;132(4):jcs225565. doi: 10.1242/jcs.225565.


Single cells migrate in a myriad of physiological contexts, such as tissue patrolling by immune cells, and during neurogenesis and tissue remodeling, as well as in metastasis, the spread of cancer cells. To understand the basic principles of single-cell migration, a reductionist approach can be taken. This aims to control and deconstruct the complexity of different cellular microenvironments into simpler elementary constrains that can be recombined together. This approach is the cell microenvironment equivalent of in vitro reconstituted systems that combine elementary molecular players to understand cellular functions. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and accompanying poster, we present selected experimental setups that mimic different events that cells undergo during migration in vivo These include polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) devices to deform whole cells or organelles, micro patterning, nano-fabricated structures like grooves, and compartmentalized collagen chambers with chemical gradients. We also outline the main contribution of each technique to the understanding of different aspects of single-cell migration.

Keywords: Cell migration; In vitro assay; Microfabrication; Microfluidics; Micropatterning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Assay*
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cellular Microenvironment / physiology
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes / chemistry
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Microtechnology / methods
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Single-Cell Analysis / instrumentation
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • baysilon
  • Collagen