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Hino, N., Rossetti, L., Marín-Llauradó, A., Aoki, K., Trepat, X., Matsuda, M., Hirashima, T., (2020). ERK-mediated mechanochemical waves direct collective cell polarization Developmental Cell 53, (6), 646-660.e8

During collective migration of epithelial cells, the migration direction is aligned over a tissue-scale expanse. Although the collective cell migration is known to be directed by mechanical forces transmitted via cell-cell junctions, it remains elusive how the intercellular force transmission is coordinated with intracellular biochemical signaling to achieve collective movements. Here, we show that intercellular coupling of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated mechanochemical feedback yields long-distance transmission of guidance cues. Mechanical stretch activates ERK through epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation, and ERK activation triggers cell contraction. The contraction of the activated cell pulls neighboring cells, evoking another round of ERK activation and contraction in the neighbors. Furthermore, anisotropic contraction based on front-rear polarization guarantees unidirectional propagation of ERK activation, and in turn, the ERK activation waves direct multicellular alignment of the polarity, leading to long-range ordered migration. Our findings reveal that mechanical forces mediate intercellular signaling underlying sustained transmission of guidance cues for collective cell migration.

Keywords: Collective cell migration, EGFR, ERK/MAPK, FRET, Front-rear polarity, Intercellular signal transfer, Mathematical model, Mechanochemical feedback, Mechanotransduction, wave propagation