Cell movement under pressure

Cell movement under pressure

News from DCEXS-UPF

An international team of researchers involving Dr. Selma A. Serra and Dr. Miguel A. Valverde of the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at UPF has shown for the first time the mechanism used by cells to decide which direction to take when travelling through the intricate twists and turns of the body.

One of the most basic processes in our bodies is how cells move through the different tissues. This behaviour is essential for our survival, to heal wounds, for example, but it can also lead to the spread of tumour cells and the onset of metastasis.

Our knowledge of the principles that guide cell migration is growing steadily. However, we still have no answers to some fundamental questions such as what type of information the cells use to determine in which direction to move.

The research conducted at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA) and Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, ​​Spain) has defined molecular mechanism that drives cell movement in extremely cramped environments through which the cells usually travel. The study has shown that when deciding on a direction, cells prefer to move towards paths where there is less hydraulic resistance, despite being narrower.

What determines the direction a cell takes at a junction? Like us, standing at intersecting roads, cells evaluate different parameters, such as the difficulty or the attractiveness of the route... to choose the way.


Runchen Zhao, Alexandros Afthinos, Tian Zhu, Panagiotis Mistriotis, Yizeng Li, Selma A. Serra, Yuqi Zhang, Christopher L. Yankaskas, Shuyu He, Miguel A. Valverde, Sean X. Sun, and Konstantinos Konstantopoulos. Cell Sensing and Decision-Making in Confinement: The role of TRPM7 in a tug of war between hydraulic pressure and cross-sectional area. Science Advances, July 2019 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7243. 

More information:
DCEXS-UPF website