Redundant mechanisms for stable cell locomotion revealed by minimal models

Charles W. Wolgemuth, Jelena Stajic, Alex Mogilner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crawling of eukaryotic cells on flat surfaces is underlain by the protrusion of the actin network, the contractile activity of myosin II motors, and graded adhesion to the substrate regulated by complex biochemical networks. Some crawling cells, such as fish keratocytes, maintain a roughly constant shape and velocity. Here we use moving-boundary simulations to explore four different minimal mechanisms for cell locomotion: 1), a biophysical model for myosin contraction-driven motility; 2), a G-actin transport-limited motility model; 3), a simple model for Rac/Rho-regulated motility; and 4), a model that assumes that microtubule-based transport of vesicles to the leading edge limits the rate of protrusion. We show that all of these models, alone or in combination, are sufficient to produce half-moon steady shapes and movements that are characteristic of keratocytes, suggesting that these mechanisms may serve redundant and complementary roles in driving cell motility. Moving-boundary simulations demonstrate local and global stability of the motile cell shapes and make testable predictions regarding the dependence of shape and speed on mechanical and biochemical parameters. The models shed light on the roles of membrane-mediated area conservation and the coupling of mechanical and biochemical mechanisms in stabilizing motile cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-553
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 3 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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