Single Cells Move To A Different Beat

Unlike their unicellular counterparts, aggregated social amoebae need physical contact to get them going, say researchers from Japan.

AsianScientist (Feb. 20, 2019) – Scientists in Japan have found that the mechanism of cell migration varies with the stage of organismal development. They published their findings in the journal Communications Biology.

Collective cell migration, where groups of cells move together with a common purpose, is important for processes ranging from wound healing to tumor metastasis. Migrating cells respond to a combination of physical cues elicited by cell-to-cell contact and waves of chemical signals sent out by local cells to attract others to their location.

In the present study, however, researchers led by Dr. Hidenori Hashimura at Osaka University, Japan, uncovered the nuances of collective cell migration in social amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum. Unicellular D. discoideum cluster together in times of stress to form a multicellular aggregate called a slug. The researchers found that while free-living cells respond to waves of chemical stimuli, slug cells require physical interaction to induce migration.

“Cyclic adenosine 3’,5’-monophosphate (cAMP) is the only chemical guidance cue for cell aggregation. Using live cell imaging, we clearly observed waves of cAMP, which can be visualized using a green fluorescent probe, during the initial stages of cell aggregation,” said corresponding author Assistant Professor Yusuke V. Morimoto of Osaka University.

However, the scientists observed that the cAMP signals gradually disappeared when multicellular slugs migrated. Although cell movement within the slugs was equal to that of cells in the early aggregation stage, the absence of cAMP signal waves suggested an alternative cue for collective cell migration.

The researchers proposed that ‘contact following’—where physical contact between cells allows them to follow each other—is likely to be responsible for collective cell migration during the slug phase of Dictyostelium development.

These findings highlight the importance of examining cellular processes at all stages of development. More importantly, understanding collective cell migration cues is a vital step in developing methods to prevent metastatic cancer and promote wound healing.

The article can be found at: Hashimura et al. (2019) Collective Cell Migration of Dictyostelium Without cAMP Oscillations at Multicellular Stages.


Source: Osaka University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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