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Collective Motion of Cells Mediates Segregation and Pattern Formation in Co-Cultures

By Előd Méhes, Enys Mones, Valéria Németh and Tamás Vicsek


Pattern formation by segregation of cell types is an important process during embryonic development. We show that an experimentally yet unexplored mechanism based on collective motility of segregating cells enhances the effects of known pattern formation mechanisms such as differential adhesion, mechanochemical interactions or cell migration directed by morphogens. To study in vitro cell segregation we use time-lapse videomicroscopy and quantitative analysis of the main features of the motion of individual cells or groups. Our observations have been extensive, typically involving the investigation of the development of patterns containing up to 200,000 cells. By either comparing keratocyte types with different collective motility characteristics or increasing cells' directional persistence by the inhibition of Rac1 GTP-ase we demonstrate that enhanced collective cell motility results in faster cell segregation leading to the formation of more extensive patterns. The growth of the characteristic scale of patterns generally follows an algebraic scaling law with exponent values up to 0.74 in the presence of collective motion, compared to significantly smaller exponents in case of diffusive motion

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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