Triggering of cell migration

18 Mar 2019

An international study identifies a ‘sensor’ that activates cell migration.

The cytoskeleton is a structure that not only helps cells maintain their shape and internal organization, but also enables them to perform functions like active locomotion and migration, that is to say, the type of movement that takes cells far from their initial locations. Acquisition of the ability to migrate plays an essential part in the spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another organ or tissue (metastasis). But so far, this process is not fully understood: How is the mechanical force generated by the cytoskeleton transformed into a biochemical signal that controls cell migration? An international team of scientists at LMU (led by Professor Hermann Gaub), the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid has now answered this question. Their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has found that the protein FAK is one of the key molecules that respond to the forces generated by the cytoskeleton, activating biochemical signals that weaken cell-substrate adherence and promote migration. These findings extend our knowledge of how metastasis and seeding of remote tumors are initiated.

For more information, see : NIM’s press release Reference article: Structural and mechanistic insights into mechanoactivation of Focal Adhesion Kinase. Magnus Sebastian Bauer, Fabian Baumann, Csaba Daday, Pilar Redondo, Ellis Durner, Markus Andreas Jobst, Lukas Frederik Milles, Davide Mercadante, Diana Angela Pippig, Hermann Eduard Gaub, Frauke Gräter, Daniel Lietha (PNAS, 2019). DOI: