Electric fields accelerate cell polarization and bypass myosin action in motility initiation

Yao Hui Sun, Yuxin Sun, Kan Zhu, Brian Reid, Xing Gao, Bruce W. Draper, Min Zhao, Alex Mogilner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stationary symmetrical fish keratocyte cells break symmetry and become motile spontaneously but slowly. We found that applying electric field (EF) accelerates the polarization by an order of magnitude. While spontaneously polarized cells move persistently for hours, the EF-induced polarity is lost in a majority of cells when the EF is switched off. However, if the EF is applied for a long time and then switched off, the majority of cell move stably. Myosin inhibition abolishes spontaneous polarization, but does not slow down EF-induced polarization, and after the EF is turned off, motility does not stop; however, the cell movements are erratic. Our results suggest that the EF rapidly polarizes the cells, but that resulting polarization becomes stable slowly, and that the EF bypasses the requirement for myosin action in motility initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2378-2385
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • cell polarization
  • galvanotaxis
  • motility initiation
  • myosin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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