Topology-guided polar ordering of collective cell migration

Sci Adv. 2024 Apr 19;10(16):eadk4825. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adk4825. Epub 2024 Apr 17.


The ability of epithelial monolayers to self-organize into a dynamic polarized state, where cells migrate in a uniform direction, is essential for tissue regeneration, development, and tumor progression. However, the mechanisms governing long-range polar ordering of motility direction in biological tissues remain unclear. Here, we investigate the self-organizing behavior of quiescent epithelial monolayers that transit to a dynamic state with long-range polar order upon growth factor exposure. We demonstrate that the heightened self-propelled activity of monolayer cells leads to formation of vortex-antivortex pairs that undergo sequential annihilation, ultimately driving the spread of long-range polar order throughout the system. A computational model, which treats the monolayer as an active elastic solid, accurately replicates this behavior, and weakening of cell-to-cell interactions impedes vortex-antivortex annihilation and polar ordering. Our findings uncover a mechanism in epithelia, where elastic solid material characteristics, activated self-propulsion, and topology-mediated guidance converge to fuel a highly efficient polar self-ordering activity.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication*
  • Cell Movement
  • Epithelium