Collective migration during a gap closure in a two-dimensional haptotactic model

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 12;11(1):5811. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-84998-w.


The ability of cells to respond to substrate-bound protein gradients is crucial for many physiological processes, such as immune response, neurogenesis and cancer cell migration. However, the difficulty to produce well-controlled protein gradients has long been a limitation to our understanding of collective cell migration in response to haptotaxis. Here we use a photopatterning technique to create circular, square and linear fibronectin (FN) gradients on two-dimensional (2D) culture substrates. We observed that epithelial cells spread preferentially on zones of higher FN density, creating rounded or elongated gaps within epithelial tissues over circular or linear FN gradients, respectively. Using time-lapse experiments, we demonstrated that the gap closure mechanism in a 2D haptotaxis model requires a significant increase of the leader cell area. In addition, we found that gap closures are slower on decreasing FN densities than on homogenous FN-coated substrate and that fresh closed gaps are characterized by a lower cell density. Interestingly, our results showed that cell proliferation increases in the closed gap region after maturation to restore the cell density, but that cell-cell adhesive junctions remain weaker in scarred epithelial zones. Taken together, our findings provide a better understanding of the wound healing process over protein gradients, which are reminiscent of haptotaxis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't