Cell migration in multicellular environments


  • Masatsune Tsujioka

    Corresponding author
    1. Special Research Promotion Group, Graduate School of Frontier Bioscience, Osaka University, 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita
    2. Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology Agency, 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan
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Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
Email: m-tsujioka@fbs.osaka-u.ac.jp


Most experiments observing cell migration use planar plastic or glass surfaces despite these conditions being considerably different from physiological ones. On such planar surfaces, cells take a dorsal-ventral polarity to move two-dimensionally. Cells in tissues, however, interact with surrounding cells and the extracellular matrix such that they transverse three-dimensionally. For this reason, three-dimensional matrices have become more and more popular for cell migration experiments. In addition, recent developments in imaging techniques have enabled high resolution observations of in vivo cell migration. The combination of three-dimensional matrices and such imaging techniques has revealed motile mechanisms in tissues not observable in studies using planar surfaces. Regarding models for such cell migration studies, the cellular slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum is ideal. Single amoeboid cells aggregate into hemispherical mound structures upon starvation to begin a multicellular morphogenesis. These tiny and simple multicellular bodies are suitable for observing the behaviors of individual cells in multicellular structures. Furthermore, the unique life cycle can be exploited to identify which genes are involved in cell migration in multicellular environments. Since mutants lacking such genes are expected to fail to undergo morphogenesis, easy and systematic gene screening is possible by isolating mutants whose developments arrest around the mound stage, which is the case for several mutants lacking specific cytoskeletal proteins. In this article, I discuss the basic elements required for cell migration in multicellular environments and how Dictyostelium can be used to elucidate them.