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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 22;107(25):11376-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1006327107. Epub 2010 Jun 8.

Dictyostelium amoebae and neutrophils can swim.

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Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge CB2 0QH, United Kingdom.


Animal cells migrating over a substratum crawl in amoeboid fashion; how the force against the substratum is achieved remains uncertain. We find that amoebae and neutrophils, cells traditionally used to study cell migration on a solid surface, move toward a chemotactic source while suspended in solution. They can swim and do so with speeds similar to those on a solid substrate. Based on the surprisingly rapidly changing shape of amoebae as they swim and earlier theoretical schemes for how suspended microorganisms can migrate (Purcell EM (1977) Life at low Reynolds number. Am J Phys 45:3-11), we suggest the general features these cells use to gain traction with the medium. This motion requires either the movement of the cell's surface from the cell's front toward its rear or protrusions that move down the length of the elongated cell. Our results indicate that a solid substratum is not a prerequisite for these cells to produce a forward thrust during movement and suggest that crawling and swimming are similar processes, a comparison we think is helpful in understanding how cells migrate.

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