A stochastic model for adhesion-mediated cell random motility and haptotaxis

Richard B. Dickinson, Robert T Tranquillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


The active migration of blood and tissue cells is important in a number of physiological processes including inflammation, wound healing, embryogenesis, and tumor cell metastasis. These cells move by transmitting cytoplasmic force through membrane receptors which are bound specifically to adhesion ligands in the surrounding substratum. Recently, much research has focused on the influence of the composition of extracellular matrix and the distribution of its components on the speed and direction of cell migration. It is commonly believed that the magnitude of the adhesion influences cell speed and/or random turning behavior, whereas a gradient of adhesion may bias the net direction of the cell movement, a phenomenon known as haptotaxis. The mechanisms underlying these responses are presently not understood. A stochastic model is presented to provide a mechanistic understanding of how the magnitude and distribution of adhesion ligands in the substratum influence cell movement. The receptor-mediated cell migration is modeled as an interrelation of random processes on distinct time scales. Adhesion receptors undergo rapid binding and transport, resulting in a stochastic spatial distribution of bound receptors fluctuating about some mean distribution. This results in a fluctuating spatio-temporal pattern of forces on the cell, which in turn affects the speed and turning behavior on a longer time scale. The model equations are a system of nonlinear stochastic differential equations (SDE's) which govern the time evolution of the spatial distribution of bound and free receptors, and the orientation and position of the cell. These SDE's are integrated numerically to simulate the behavior of the model cell on both a uniform substratum, and on a gradient of adhesion ligand concentration. Furthermore, analysis of the governing SDE system and corresponding Fokker-Planck equation (FPE) yields analytical expressions for indices which characterize cell movement on multiple time scales in terms of cell cytomechanical, morphological, and receptor binding and transport parameters. For a uniform adhesion ligand concentration, this analysis provides expressions for traditional cell movement indices such as mean speed, directional persistence time, and random motility coefficient. In a small gradient of adhesion, a perturbation analysis of the FPE yields a constitutive cell flux expression which includes a drift term for haptotactic directional cell migration. The haptotactic drift contains terms identified as contributions from directional orientation bias (taxis).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-600
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1993


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