Active cell migration is critical for steady-state epithelial turnover in the gut

Science. 2019 Aug 16;365(6454):705-710. doi: 10.1126/science.aau3429.


Steady-state turnover is a hallmark of epithelial tissues throughout adult life. Intestinal epithelial turnover is marked by continuous cell migration, which is assumed to be driven by mitotic pressure from the crypts. However, the balance of forces in renewal remains ill-defined. Combining biophysical modeling and quantitative three-dimensional tissue imaging with genetic and physical manipulations, we revealed the existence of an actin-related protein 2/3 complex-dependent active migratory force, which explains quantitatively the profiles of cell speed, density, and tissue tension along the villi. Cells migrate collectively with minimal rearrangements while displaying dual-apicobasal and front-back-polarity characterized by actin-rich basal protrusions oriented in the direction of migration. We propose that active migration is a critical component of gut epithelial turnover.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / genetics
  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cell Polarity
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitosis*
  • Models, Biological


  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex