Modelling cells in one-dimension: diverse migration modes, emergent oscillations on junctions and multicellular "trains"

Motile cells inside living tissues often encounter junctions, where their path branches into several alternative directions of migration. We present a theoretical model of cellular polarization for cells migrating along one-dimensional lines, exhibiting diverse migration modes. When arriving at a symmetric Y-junction and extending protrusions along the different paths that emanate from the junction. The model predicts the spontaneous emergence of deterministic oscillations between competing protrusions, whereby the cellular polarization and growth alternates between the competing protrusions. These predicted oscillations are found experimentally for two different cell types, noncancerous endothelial and cancerous glioma cells, migrating on patterned network of thin adhesive lanes with junctions. Finally we present an analysis of the migration modes of multicellular “trains” along one-dimensional tracks.