Emergence of HGF/SF-Induced Coordinated Cellular Motility

Assaf Zaritsky, Sari Natan, Eshel Ben-Jacob, Ilan Tsarfaty*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Collective cell migration plays a major role in embryonic morphogenesis, tissue remodeling, wound repair and cancer invasion. Despite many decades of extensive investigations, only few analytical tools have been developed to enhance the biological understanding of this important phenomenon. Here we present a novel quantitative approach to analyze long term kinetics of bright field time-lapse wound healing. Fully-automated spatiotemporal measures and visualization of cells' motility and implicit morphology were proven to be sound, repetitive and highly informative compared to single-cell tracking analysis. We study cellular collective migration induced by tyrosine kinase-growth factor signaling (Met-Hepatocyte Growth Factor/Scatter Factor (HGF/SF)). Our quantitative approach is applied to demonstrate that collective migration of the adenocarcinoma cell lines is characterized by simple morpho-kinetics. HGF/SF induces complex morpho-kinetic coordinated collective migration: cells at the front move faster and are more spread than those further away from the wound edge. As the wound heals, distant cells gradually accelerate and enhance spread and elongation -resembling the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), and then the cells become more spread and maintain higher velocity than cells located closer to the wound. Finally, upon wound closure, front cells halt, shrink and round up (resembling mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET) phenotype) while distant cells undergo the same process gradually. Met inhibition experiments further validate that Met signaling dramatically alters the morpho-kinetic dynamics of the healing wound. Machine-learning classification was applied to demonstrate the generalization of our findings, revealing even subtle changes in motility patterns induced by Met-inhibition. It is concluded that activation of Met-signaling induces an elaborated model in which cells lead a coordinated increased motility along with gradual differentiation-based collective cell motility dynamics. Our quantitative phenotypes may guide future investigation on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of tyrosine kinase-induced coordinate cell motility and morphogenesis in metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44671
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2012


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