Cell Migration

Topic: Mechanisms Of Development

Cell migration is necessary for the development and maintenance of multicellularity and occurs through varying mechanisms.

Cell migration is a central process in the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms. Processes such as tissue formation during embryonic development, wound healing, and immune responses all require the organized movement of cells in particular directions to specific locations. Many less complicated prokaryotic organisms (and sperm cells) use flagella or cilia to propel themselves. Eukaryotic cell migration usually involves drastic changes in cell shape, which are driven by the cytoskeleton, motor proteins, blebbing, and cytoplasmic displacement.

Neural crest cells also undergo extensive migration. These cells form at the edge of the neural folds during neurulation and then migrate throughout the body to form many different structures.

Errors during cell migration have serious consequences, including intellectual disability, vascular disease, tumor formation, and metastasis. An understanding of the mechanism by which cells migrate may lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for controlling, for example, invasive tumor cells.

Key Points

• The disruption or dysfunction of cell migration processes can lead to the formation of various diseases, such as metastasis, tumor formation, and vascular disease.

• In prokaryotic organisms and some eukaryotic cells such as sperm cells, cell migration occurs via the use of cilia or flagella to propel forward.

• In eukaryotic organisms, cell migration is a much more complicated process and can include, but is not excluded to, changes in the cytoskeleton, motor proteins, blebbing, and cytoplasmic displacement; it involves both external and internal signals that mediate these processes.

Key Terms

Cell migration: a central process in the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms

flagella: a long, whip-like structure that helps some single-celled organisms move

cilia: short eyelash like filament found on tissue cells of most animals and provides the means for locomotion

bleb: an irregular bulge in the plasma membrane of a cell

metastasis: the transference of a bodily function or disease to another part of the body; specifically the development of a secondary area of disease remote from the original site, as with some cancers’

neural crest: a transient embryonic structure in vertebrates that gives rise to most of the peripheral nervous system

the organized movement of cells: an important event in a variety of biological processes, critical during tissue morphogenesis and wound healing

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