Asymmetric nanotopography biases cytoskeletal dynamics and promotes unidirectional cell guidance

Xiaoyu Sun, Meghan K. Driscoll, Can Guven, Satarupa Das, Carole A. Parent, John T. Fourkas, Wolfgang Losert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Many biological and physiological processes depend upon directed migration of cells, which is typically mediated by chemical or physical gradients or by signal relay. Here we show that cells can be guided in a single preferred direction based solely on local asymmetries in nano/microtopography on subcellular scales. These asymmetries can be repeated, and thereby provide directional guidance, over arbitrarily large areas. The direction and strength of the guidance is sensitive to the details of the nano/microtopography, suggesting that this phenomenon plays a context-dependent role in vivo. We demonstrate that appropriate asymmetric nano/microtopography can unidirectionally bias internal actin polymerization waves and that cells move with the same preferred direction as these waves. This phenomenon is observed both for the pseudopoddominated migration of the amoeboid Dictyosteliumdiscoideum and for the lamellipod-driven migration of human neutrophils. The conservation of this mechanism across cell types and the asymmetric shape of many natural scaffolds suggest that actin-wave-based guidance is important in biology and physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12557-12562
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 13 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Actin waves
  • Cell migration
  • Contact guidance
  • Dictyostelium discoideum
  • Neutrophils

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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