Photoactivatable substrates for systematic study of the impact of an extracellular matrix ligand on appearance of leader cells in collective cell migration

Shimaa A. Abdellatef, Jun Nakanishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


Epithelial cells migrate as multicellular units. The directionality and speed of these units are determined by actively moving leader cells. It is important to understand how external cues affect the appearance of these leader cells in physiological and pathological processes. However, the impact of extracellular matrices (ECMs) is still controversial, because physically-adsorbed ECM proteins are amenable to protein remodeling, and uncontrolled cluster geometry can vary migration phenotypes. Here, we demonstrate a photoactivatable substrate, which we used to study the impact of a cyclic Arg-Gly-Asp (cRGD) ligand on leader cell formation in MDCK cells. This robust platform allowed us to investigate the effect of cRGD density on leader cell formation, in any given cluster geometry, with minimized ECM remodeling. Our results show a biphasic response of leader cell appearance upon reducing the surface cRGD density. The increase, in leader cell appearance, within the higher density range, is not only associated with the weakening of circumferential actomyosin belts, but also reduction of cellular mechanical tension and intercellular junctional E-cadherin. These results indicate that cRGD-mediated cell-ECM interactions positively regulate mechanical and biochemical coupling within cell clusters; both are critical for the coordination of cell collectives and eventual reduction in the appearance of leader cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-84
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes



  • Cadherin
  • Caged compound
  • Collective migration
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Leader cell
  • Mechanobiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials

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