Int. J. Dev. Biol. 48: 441 - 449 (2004)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.041821pf
© UPV/EHU Press

Collective cell migration in morphogenesis and cancer

Peter Friedl, Yael Hegerfeldt and Miriam Tusch

Molecular Cell Dynamics Laboratory, Rudolf-Virchow Center, DFG Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine and Department of Dermatology, University of Würzburg, Germany.

ABSTRACT The movement of cells that maintain cell-cell junctions yet protrude along or within tissues is an important mechanism for cell positioning in morphogenesis, tissue repair and cancer. Collective cell migration shares similarities but also important differences to individually migrating cells. Coherent groups of cells are arranged and held together by cell-cell adhesion molecules, including cadherins, integrins, ALCAM and NCAM. Integrins of the β1 and β3 families further provide polarized interactions with the extracellular tissue environment, while matrix-degrading proteases become focalized to substrate contacts to widen tissue space for the advancing cell mass. By generating one functional unit, in contrast to individual cell migration, collective migration provides the active and passive translocation of mobile and non-mobile cells, respectively. This review highlights cellular and molecular principles of collective migration in the context of morphogenic tissue patterning and tumor cell invasion.


cell migration, epithelial cell, collagen, integrin, MMP, cadherin

*Corresponding author e-mail: