Identifying the mechanism for superdiffusivity in mouse fibroblast motility

Giuseppe Passucci, Megan E. Brasch, James H. Henderson, Vasily Zaburdaev, M. Lisa Manning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We seek to characterize the motility of mouse fibroblasts on 2D substrates. Utilizing automated tracking techniques, we find that cell trajectories are super-diffusive, where displacements scale faster than t1/2 in all directions. Two mechanisms have been proposed to explain such statistics in other cell types: run and tumble behavior with Lévy-distributed run times, and ensembles of cells with heterogeneous speed and rotational noise. We develop an automated toolkit that directly compares cell trajectories to the predictions of each model and demonstrate that ensemble-averaged quantities such as the mean-squared displacements and velocity autocorrelation functions are equally well-fit by either model. However, neither model correctly captures the short-timescale behavior quantified by the displacement probability distribution or the turning angle distribution. We develop a hybrid model that includes both run and tumble behavior and heterogeneous noise during the runs, which correctly matches the short-timescale behaviors and indicates that the run times are not Lévy distributed. The analysis tools developed here should be broadly useful for distinguishing between mechanisms for superdiffusivity in other cells types and environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1006732
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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