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Biophys J. 2010 Jan 6;98(1):67-75. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.09.051.

Directional persistence of cell migration coincides with stability of asymmetric intracellular signaling.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


It has long been appreciated that spatiotemporal dynamics of cell migration are under the control of intracellular signaling pathways, which are mediated by adhesion receptors and other transducers of extracellular cues. Further, there is ample evidence that aspects of cell migration are stochastic: how else could it exhibit directional persistence over timescales much longer than typical signal transduction processes, punctuated by abrupt changes in direction? Yet the mechanisms by which signaling processes affect those behaviors remain unclear. We have developed analytical methods for relating parallel live-cell microscopy measurements of cell migration dynamics to the intracellular signaling processes that govern them. In this analysis of phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling in randomly migrating fibroblasts, we observe that hot spots of intense signaling coincide with localized cell protrusion and endure with characteristic lifetimes that correspond to those of cell migration persistence. We further show that distant hot spots are dynamically and stochastically coupled. These results are indicative of a mechanism by which changes in a cell's direction of migration are determined by a fragile balance of relatively rapid intracellular signaling processes.

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