Jamming and arrest of cell motion in biological tissues

Elizabeth Lawson-Keister, M. Lisa Manning

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Collective cell motility is crucial to many biological processes including morphogenesis, wound healing, and cancer invasion. Recently, the biology and biophysics communities have begun to use the term ‘cell jamming’ to describe the collective arrest of cell motion in tissues. Although this term is widely used, the underlying mechanisms are varied. In this review, we highlight three independent mechanisms that can potentially drive arrest of cell motion — crowding, tension-driven rigidity, and reduction of fluctuations — and propose a framework that connects all three. Because multiple mechanisms may be operating simultaneously, this emphasizes that experiments should strive to identify which mechanism dominates in a given situation. We also discuss how specific cell-scale and molecular-scale biological processes, such as cell–cell and cell-substrate interactions, control aspects of these underlying physical mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Cell Biology
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Active matter
  • Cell arrest
  • Cell jamming
  • Cell–cell adhesion
  • Stress fluctuations
  • Tissue mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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