Loss of Vimentin Enhances Cell Motility through Small Confining Spaces

Alison E. Patteson, Katarzyna Pogoda, Fitzroy J. Byfield, Kalpana Mandal, Zofia Ostrowska-Podhorodecka, Elisabeth E. Charrier, Peter A. Galie, Piotr Deptuła, Robert Bucki, Christopher A. McCulloch, Paul A. Janmey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The migration of cells through constricting spaces or along fibrous tracks in tissues is important for many biological processes and depends on the mechanical properties of a cytoskeleton made up of three different filaments: F-actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments. The signaling pathways and cytoskeletal structures that control cell motility on 2D are often very different from those that control motility in 3D. Previous studies have shown that intermediate filaments can promote actin-driven protrusions at the cell edge, but have little effect on overall motility of cells on flat surfaces. They are however important for cells to maintain resistance to repeated compressive stresses that are expected to occur in vivo. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from wild-type and vimentin-null mice, it is found that loss of vimentin increases motility in 3D microchannels even though on flat surfaces it has the opposite effect. Atomic force microscopy and traction force microscopy experiments reveal that vimentin enhances perinuclear cell stiffness while maintaining the same level of acto-myosin contractility in cells. A minimal model in which a perinuclear vimentin cage constricts along with the nucleus during motility through confining spaces, providing mechanical resistance against large strains that could damage the structural integrity of cells, is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1903180
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • atomic force microscopy
  • biopolymers
  • constricted cell motility
  • traction force microscopy
  • vimentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology
  • General Materials Science
  • Biomaterials


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