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Polarity mechanisms such as contact inhibition of locomotion regulate persistent rotational motion of mammalian cells on micropatterns


Pairs of endothelial cells on adhesive micropatterns rotate persistently, but pairs of fibroblasts do not; coherent rotation is present in normal mammary acini and kidney cells but absent in cancerous cells. Why? To answer this question, we develop a computational model of pairs of mammalian cells on adhesive micropatterns using a phase field method and study the conditions under which persistent rotational motion (PRM) emerges. Our model couples the shape of the cell, the cell's internal chemical polarity, and interactions between cells such as volume exclusion and adhesion. We show that PRM can emerge from this minimal model and that the cell-cell interface may be influenced by the nucleus. We study the effect of various cell polarity mechanisms on rotational motion, including contact inhibition of locomotion, neighbor alignment, and velocity alignment, where cells align their polarity to their velocity. These polarity mechanisms strongly regulate PRM: Small differences in polarity mechanisms can create significant differences in collective rotation. We argue that the existence or absence of rotation under confinement may lead to insight into the cell's methods for coordinating collective cell motility.

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