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Biophys J. 2011 Dec 7;101(11):2620-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.09.022.

Measuring traction forces of motile dendritic cells on micropost arrays.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Dendritic cells (DCs) migrate from sites of inflammation to secondary lymphoid organs where they initiate the adaptive immune response. Although motility is essential to DC function, the mechanisms by which they migrate are not fully understood. We incorporated micropost array detectors into a microfluidic gradient generator to develop what we consider to be a novel method for probing low magnitude traction forces during directional migration. We found migration of primary murine DCs is driven by short-lived traction stresses at the leading edge or filopodia. The traction forces generated by DCs are smaller in magnitude than found in neutrophils, and of similar magnitude during chemotaxis and chemokinesis, at 18 ± 1.4 and 16 ± 1.3 nN/cell, respectively. The characteristic duration of local DC traction forces was 3 min. The maximum principal stress in the cell occurred in the plane perpendicular to the axis of motion, forward of the centroid. We illustrate that the spatiotemporal pattern of traction stresses can be used to predict the direction of future DC motion. Overall, DCs show a mode of migration distinct from both mesenchymal cells and neutrophils, characterized by rapid turnover of traction forces in leading filopodia.

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