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CEMB Future Leaders Seminar: “Enhanced matrix stress relaxation promotes cell migration”

October 13, 2021 at 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Launched in May 2021, the Future Leaders in Mechanobiology is a monthly seminar series featuring up-and-coming leaders in mechanobiology–PhD students and postdocs from a wide range of fields, backgrounds, and institutions. By providing an international stage to share one’s work and opportunities to interact with researchers at all career stages, we aim to create an inclusive and valuable series for early-stage researchers and the mechanobiology community as a whole.

Register HERE for access to the Zoom link and visit the CEMB website for more information.

Kolade Adebowale, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University and Wyss Institute

Cell migration on 2D substrates is typically characterized by lamellipodia at the leading edge, mature focal adhesions, and spread morphologies. These observations result from studies of cell migration on rigid or stiff elastic substrates, as most cells do not migrate on soft, elastic substrates. However, many biological tissues are soft, with an initial elastic modulus on the order of ~1 kPa, and are also viscoelastic, exhibiting stress relaxation over time in response to a deformation.

We find that cancer cell migration speed and persistence is enhanced with faster stress relaxation. Cells did not migrate on substrates with slow relaxation, similar to the previous findings that cells did not migrate on soft, elastic substrates, but migrated robustly on fast relaxing substrates. Strikingly, cancer cells migrating on soft viscoelastic substrates were not spread and did not extend lamellipodial protrusions, but were instead rounded, with filopodia protrusions extending at the leading edge, and exhibited small nascent adhesions. Molecular-clutch based computational modeling predicted the observed impact of substrate stress relaxation on cell migration.

Taken together, our findings establish substrate stress relaxation as a key requirement for robust cell migration on soft substrates, and uncover a previously undescribed mode of cell migration marked by round morphologies, filopodia protrusions, and weak adhesions.


October 13, 2021
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB)
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