Most eukaryotic cells can crawl over surfaces. In general, this motility requires three distinct actions: polymerization at the leading edge, adhesion to the substrate, and retraction at the rear. Recent experiments with mouse embryonic fibroblasts showed that during spreading and crawling the lamellipodium undergoes periodic contractions that are substrate-dependent. Here I show that a simple model incorporating stick-slip adhesion and a simplified mechanism for the generation of contractile forces is sufficient to explain periodic lamellipodial contractions. This model also explains why treatment of cells with latrunculin modifies the period of these contractions. In addition, by coupling a diffusing chemical species that can bind actin, such as myosin light-chain kinase, with the contractile model leads to periodic rows and waves in the chemical species, similar to what is observed in experiments. This model provides a novel and simple explanation for the generation of contractile waves during cell spreading and crawling that is only dependent on stick-slip adhesion and the generation of contractile force and suggests new experiments to test this mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas