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Cell currents triggered by left-right asymmetry


Fibrosarcoma cells organize themselves close to a physical border in order to move collectively along it. This surprising discovery from the team of Pascal Silberzan, Biology-Inspired Physics at Mesoscales (CNRS UMR168 / Sorbonne University) at Institut Curie has earned him a publication in the prestigious journal Physical Review X.

Publication Pascal Silberzan dec 2022

Chirality, meaning an organization that breaks left-right symmetry (like our left and right hands which are symmetrical but not stackable), is a widespread phenomenon in the living world. Indeed, although it is well known that biomolecules are generally chiral, this property has also been identified more recently at the scale of the cell and that of cell groups. The team led by Pascal Silberzan, Biology-Inspired Physics at Mesoscales (CNRS UMR168 / Sorbonne University), at Institut Curie has just revealed its importance for cell groups though in vitro experiments.

We cultivated monolayers of cancerous fibrosarcoma cells, known for being very active, in an environment restricted by obstacles. Far from the walls, movements are swirling and disorganized; close to these obstacles, however, the cells organize themselves to generate a collective movement along the edge

Explains Victor Yashunky, a post-doctoral fellow in the team at the time of the study, now Professor at Ben Gurion university in Israel.

Organized movements had already been observed in vivo when cancerous cells, escaping collectively from a tumor, encounter uneven obstacles such as muscle fibers or blood vessels. But the experiments conducted by Pascal Silberzan’s team, in vitro, took things even further by showing the importance of chirality in these movements.

In the monolayer, cell movements are associated with vortexes which happen in pairs, one in one direction and one in the other but the chirality of the cells destabilizes this association close to the obstacle’s edge and causes a mass movement along this border.

Continues Pascal Silberzan

To better understand these phenomena, this experimental work has been paired with theoretical work - digital modeling - in partnership with Luca Giomi’s group at Leiden university in the Netherlands. Pascal Silberzan’s team is now committed to exploring these phenomena on other cell types, but also to expanding this work conducted on cell monolayers to three dimensions: “we have sound expertise in micro-fabricated cell culture systems that let us impose well-defined restrictions on single layers”, Silberzan explains. “Now we need to look to other technologies more suited to 3D cell culture.”

To read the publication, please click here.