Linking morphodynamics and directional persistence of T lymphocyte migration

Xiaji Liu, Erik S. Welf, Jason M. Haugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


T cells play a central role in the adaptive immune response, and their directed migration is essential for homing to sites of antigen presentation. Like neutrophils, T lymphocytes are rapidly moving cells that exhibit amoeboid movement, characterized by a definitive polarity with F-actin concentrated at the front and myosin II elsewhere. In this study, we used total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to monitor the cells' areas of contact with a surface presenting adhesive ICAM-1 and the chemokine, CXCL12/ SDF-1. Our analysis reveals that T-cell migration and reorientation are achieved by bifurcation and lateral separation of protrusions along the leading membrane edge, followed by cessation of one of the protrusions, which acts as a pivot for cell turning. We show that the distribution of bifurcation frequencies exhibits characteristics of a random, spontaneous process; yet, the waiting time between bifurcation events depends on whether or not the pivot point remains on the same side of the migration axis. Our analysis further suggests that switching of the dominant protrusion between the two sides of the migration axis is associated with persistent migration, whereas the opposite is true of cell turning. To help explain the bifurcation phenomenon and how distinct migration behaviours might arise, a spatio-temporal, stochastic model describing F-actin dynamics is offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20141412
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number106
StatePublished - May 6 2015


  • Cell migration
  • Chemokine
  • Image analysis
  • TIRF microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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