Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara Previously Published Works bannerUC Santa Barbara

Connecting individual to collective cell migration.


Collective cell migration plays a pivotal role in the formation of organs, tissue regeneration, wound healing and many disease processes, including cancer. Despite the considerable existing knowledge on the molecular control of cell movements, it is unclear how the different observed modes of collective migration, especially for small groups of cells, emerge from the known behaviors of individual cells. Here we derive a physical description of collective cellular movements from first principles, while accounting for known phenomenological cell behaviors, such as contact inhibition of locomotion and force-induced cell repolarization. We show that this theoretical description successfully describes the motion of groups of cells of arbitrary numbers, connecting single cell behaviors and parameters (e.g., adhesion and traction forces) to the collective migration of small groups of cells and the expansion of large cell colonies. Specifically, using a common framework, we explain how cells characterized by contact inhibition of locomotion can display coherent collective behavior when in groups, even in the absence of biochemical signaling. We find an optimal group size leading to maximal group persistence and show that cell proliferation prevents the buildup of intercellular forces within cell colonies, enabling their expansion.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View