Heterogeneous T cell motility behaviors emerge from a coupling between speed and turning in vivo

Elife. 2020 May 19;9:e53933. doi: 10.7554/eLife.53933.


T cells in vivo migrate primarily via undirected random walks, but it remains unresolved how these random walks generate an efficient search. Here, we use light sheet microscopy of T cells in the larval zebrafish as a model system to study motility across large populations of cells over hours in their native context. We show that cells do not perform Levy flight; rather, there is substantial cell-to-cell variability in speed, which persists over timespans of a few hours. This variability is amplified by a correlation between speed and directional persistence, generating a characteristic cell behavioral manifold that is preserved under a perturbation to cell speeds, and seen in Mouse T cells and Dictyostelium. Together, these effects generate a broad range of length scales over which cells explore in vivo.

Keywords: T cells; cell motility; light sheet microscopy; persistent random walk; physics of living systems; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement*
  • Light
  • Microscopy
  • Models, Biological*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Zebrafish / physiology*

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE137770

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.