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Int J Biol Sci 2007; 3(5):303-317. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3.303


The Forces Behind Cell Movement

Revathi Ananthakrishnan1 *, Allen Ehrlicher2

1. Laboratory for Cell and Computational Biology, 1 Shields Avenue, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA-95616, USA.
2. Institute for Soft Matter Physics, Linne Strasse 5, Univ. of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany-04103
* Present address: 3 Everett St, #3, Cambridge, MA-02138.


Cell movement is a complex phenomenon primarily driven by the actin network beneath the cell membrane, and can be divided into three general components: protrusion of the leading edge of the cell, adhesion of the leading edge and deadhesion at the cell body and rear, and cytoskeletal contraction to pull the cell forward. Each of these steps is driven by physical forces generated by unique segments of the cytoskeleton. This review examines the specific physics underlying these phases of cell movement and the origins of the forces that drive locomotion.

Keywords: cell movement, crawling, motility, actin, polymerization, adhesion force, retraction force

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Ananthakrishnan R, Ehrlicher A. The Forces Behind Cell Movement. Int J Biol Sci 2007; 3(5):303-317. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3.303. Available from