The cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum is a widely used model system for studying a variety of basic processes in development, including cell–cell signaling, signal transduction, pattern formation, cell motility, and the movement of tissue-like aggregates of cells. Many aspects of cell motion are poorly understood, including how individual cell behavior produces the collective motion of cells observed within the mound and slug. Herein, we describe a biologically realistic model for motile D. discoideum cells that can generate active forces, that interact via surface molecules, and that can detect and respond to chemotactic signals. We model the cells as deformable viscoelastic ellipsoids and incorporate signal transduction and cell–cell signaling by using a previously developed model. The shape constraint restricts the admissible deformations but makes the simulation of a large number of interacting cells feasible. Because the model is based on known processes, the parameters can be estimated or measured experimentally. We show that this model can reproduce the observations on the chemotactic behavior of single cells, streaming during aggregation, and the collective motion of an aggregate of cells driven by a small group of pacemakers. The model predicts that the motion of two-dimensional slugs [Bonner, J. T. (1998) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95, 9355–9359] results from the same behaviors that are exhibited by individual cells; it is not necessary to invoke different mechanisms or behaviors. Our computational experiments also suggest previously uncharacterized phenomena that may be experimentally observable
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