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J Cell Biol. 2012 Apr 2;197(1):105-14. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201108152.

Migrating fibroblasts reorient directionality by a metastable, PI3K-dependent mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


Mesenchymal cell migration as exhibited by fibroblasts is distinct from amoeboid cell migration and is characterized by dynamic competition among multiple protrusions, which determines directional persistence and responses to spatial cues. Localization of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling is thought to play a broadly important role in cell motility, yet the context-dependent functions of this pathway have not been adequately elucidated. By mapping the spatiotemporal dynamics of cell protrusion/retraction and PI3K signaling monitored by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, we show that randomly migrating fibroblasts reorient polarity through PI3K-dependent branching and pivoting of protrusions. PI3K inhibition did not affect the initiation of newly branched protrusions, nor did it prevent protrusion induced by photoactivation of Rac. Rather, PI3K signaling increased after, not before, the onset of local protrusion and was required for the lateral spreading and stabilization of nascent branches. During chemotaxis, the branch experiencing the higher chemoattractant concentration was favored, and, thus, the cell reoriented so as to align with the external gradient.

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