Nature communications

Lymphocytes can self-steer passively with wind vane uropods.

PMID 25323331


A wide variety of cells migrate directionally in response to chemical or mechanical cues, however the mechanisms involved in cue detection and translation into directed movement are debatable. Here we investigate a model of lymphocyte migration on the inner surface of blood vessels. Cells orient their migration against fluid flow, suggesting the existence of an adaptive mechano-tranduction mechanism. We find that flow detection may not require molecular mechano-sensors of shear stress, and detection of flow direction can be achieved by the orientation in the flow of the non-adherent cell rear, the uropod. Uropods act as microscopic wind vanes that can transmit detection of flow direction into cell steering via the on-going machinery of polarity maintenance, without the need for novel internal guidance signalling triggered by flow. Contrary to chemotaxis, which implies active regulation of cue-dependent signalling, upstream flow mechanotaxis of lymphocytes may only rely on a passive self-steering mechanism.