Collective cell migration is crucial to many physiological and pathological processes such as embryo development, wound healing, and cancer invasion. Recent experimental studies have indicated that the active traction forces generated by migrating cells in a fibrous extracellular matrix (ECM) can mechanically remodel the ECM, giving rise to bundlelike mesostructures bridging individual cells. Such fiber bundles also enable long-range propagation of cellular forces, leading to correlated migration dynamics regulated by the mechanical communication among the cells. Motivated by these experimental discoveries, we develop an active-particle model with polarized effective attractions (APPA) to investigate emergent multicellular migration dynamics resulting from ECM-mediated mechanical communications. In particular, the APPA model generalizes the classic active-Brownian-particle (ABP) model by imposing a pairwise polarized attractive force between the particles, which depends on the instantaneous dynamic states of the particles and mimics the effective mutual pulling between the cells via the fiber bundle bridge. The APPA system exhibits enhanced aggregation behaviors compared to the classic ABP system, and the contrast is more apparent at lower particle densities and higher rotational diffusivities. Importantly, in contrast to the classic ABP system where the particle velocities are not correlated for all particle densities, the high-density phase of the APPA system exhibits strong dynamic correlations, which are characterized by the slowly decaying velocity correlation functions with a correlation length comparable to the linear size of the high-density phase domain (i.e., the cluster of particles). The strongly correlated multicellular dynamics predicted by the APPA model is subsequently verified in in vitro experiments using MCF-10A cells. Our studies indicate the importance of incorporating ECM-mediated mechanical coupling among the migrating cells for appropriately modeling emergent multicellular dynamics in complex microenvironments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Statistics and Probability
- Condensed Matter Physics