At the onset of collective cell migration, a subset of cells within an initially homogenous population acquires a distinct 'leader' phenotype with characteristic morphology and motility. However, the factors driving the leader cell formation as well as the mechanisms regulating leader cell density during the migration process remain to be determined. Here we use single-cell gene expression analysis and computational modelling to show that the leader cell identity is dynamically regulated by Dll4 signalling through both Notch1 and cellular stress in a migrating epithelium. Time-lapse microscopy reveals that Dll4 is induced in leader cells after the creation of the cell-free region and leader cells are regulated via Notch1-Dll4 lateral inhibition. Furthermore, mechanical stress inhibits Dll4 expression and leader cell formation in the monolayer. Collectively, our findings suggest that a reduction of mechanical force near the boundary promotes Notch1-Dll4 signalling to dynamically regulate the density of leader cells during collective cell migration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)