Cell guidance by anchored molecules, or haptotaxis, is crucial in development, immunology and cancer. Adhesive haptotaxis, or guidance by adhesion molecules, is well established for mesenchymal cells such as fibroblasts, whereas its existence remains unreported for amoeboid cells that require less or no adhesion in order to migrate. We show that, in vitro, amoeboid human T lymphocytes develop adhesive haptotaxis mediated by densities of integrin ligands expressed by high endothelial venules. Moreover, lymphocytes orient towards increasing adhesion with VLA4 integrins (also known as integrin α4β1), like all mesenchymal cells, but towards decreasing adhesion with LFA-1 integrins (also known as integrin αLβ4), which has not previously been observed. This counterintuitive ‘reverse haptotaxis’ cannot be explained by existing mechanisms of mesenchymal haptotaxis involving either competitive anchoring of cell edges under tension or differential integrin-activated growth of lamellipodia, because they both favor orientation towards increasing adhesion. The mechanisms and functions of amoeboid adhesive haptotaxis remain unclear; however, multidirectional integrin-mediated haptotaxis might operate around transmigration ports on endothelia, stromal cells in lymph nodes, and inflamed tissue where integrin ligands are spatially modulated.
Left : T cells on repetition of adhesion gradients of integrin lagands. Right- T cells migrate toward lower adhesion on ICAM-1 lignads.