Guidance by followers ensures long-range coordination of cell migration through α-catenin mechanoperception

CC BY 4.0: Boutillon et al.


Morphogenesis, wound healing, and some cancer metastases depend upon the migration of cell collectives that need to be guided to their destination as well as coordinated with other cell movements. During zebrafish gastrulation, the extension of the embryonic axis is led by the mesendodermal polster that migrates toward the animal pole, followed by the axial mesoderm that undergoes convergence and extension. Here, we investigate how polster cells are guided toward the animal pole. Using a combination of precise laser ablations, advanced transplants, and functional as well as in silico approaches, we establish that each polster cell is oriented by its immediate follower cells. Each cell perceives the migration of followers, through E-cadherin/α-catenin mechanotransduction, and aligns with them. Therefore, directional information propagates from cell to cell over the whole tissue. Such guidance of migrating cells by followers ensures long-range coordination of movements and developmental robustness.

Developmental Cell