Video courtesy of Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH (FZJ)

Cell Migration

Cell migration is an essential biophysical process that is present in both unicellular to multicellular organisms. Its functions range from basic requirements such as searching for food and mating to the organisation and growth of tissues, and homeostasis. Cells migrate in response to internal or external stimuli including but not limited to feeding, generation of new structures, immune response, and healing of wounds. Recent studies have resulted in tremendous growth in understanding the underlying mechanochemical sub-processes controlling the said process. A fundamental discovery regarding the involvement of cytoskeleton was the turning point that enabled physical approaches to the problem by identifying the generators and transductors of motile forces driving cell migration.

Cell Migration as a Biophysical Phenomenon

The importance of myosin as an active force generating molecular motor on filamentous actin of cytoskeleton has been well established. As a non-processive motor, a threshold density of myosin motors is required for steady motility of F-actin. For successful cellular movement, myosin generated internal force on F-actin must be transferred to the extracellular matrix. This is where focal adhesion comes into play, which is a complex molecular structure involving several types of proteins and it enables the cell to apply a 'frictional force' on the ECM. The molecular clutch hypothesis proposes that integrin-containing focal adhesions act as mechanical clutches by mediating the interactions between the actin cytoskeleton and the extracellular environment. My current research aims to understand how the activity of Myosin motors influences traction forces, via mechanistic modelling leading to various dynamical phases predicting focal adhesion behaviour, providing excellent matches with existing experiments and beyond.