A new article on living cells guided against a flow by a roly-poly-like mechanism in PNAS

Cellular guidance by chemical or physical signals is essential for many life processes and usually relies on sophisticated biological processes that are still partially elucidated. Microfluidic experiments and mechanical modeling has revealed that the choice for cells to orient themselves against or in the direction of a flow can result from a simple physical bias. They have worked with  keratocytes, cells that form the scale of fishes, and whose morphology is characterized by broad  flat “front” and a compact protruding front  “back”. A simplified model of a cell with a hemispherical back and a flat rectangular front allows to quantitatively calculate the forces that the flow exerts on each edge. The resulting force stabilizes the cells with a large rear edge against the flow, like a roly-poly that stays upright because of its heavy bottom edge. The researchers’ model successfully predicted the experimentally observed orientation for each cell without adjusting parameter. It is an elegant example where a characterized biological behavior does not result from specialized molecular sensors and a complex cascade of internal biosignals to reorient the cell, but from a simple passive physical bias.


A– Keratocytes descending a flow, the white arrow indicates the direction of the stream. B– Cell morphology seen in 3D by confocal microscopy, with a bulbous back edge and a flat, thin front edge. C– Cell modeling with a hemisphere at the back (red) and a flat rectangle at the front (brown) D– The torques resulting from flow on cell front (red arrow) and cell front (brown arrow) stabilize upstream orientation of cell with larger rear edge, like the torque resulting from gravity stabilizes the standing position of roly-poly toys with large bottom edge. 

This paper was commented on in CNRS (link)

A new article on leukemic stem cell adhesion to bone marrow stromal cells by single-molecule tracking nanoscopy in Journal of Cell Science

The interactions between haematopoietic and stromal cells are profoundly altered by leukaemias, contributing to the phenomena of resistance to myeloablative treatments. In this study, we followed the dynamics of JAM adhesion molecules at the membrane between leukaemic and stromal cells by videonanoscopy in order to study the establishment and evolution of these cellular junctions. The trajectories of JAMs were analysed with near-nanometer precision using a dedicated MTT (Multi-Target Tracing, Sergé et al. Nature Methods 2008) algorithm extended to 2 colours, which allows to reveal the signature of interaction and stabilization events at cell contacts. We have thus characterised the involvement of JAMs in the interaction mechanisms of tumour cells as well as the maintenance of stem cells in bone marrow niches through enhanced interaction. From a therapeutic perspective, we destabilised leukaemic stem cells using blocking antibodies opening opportunities for disrupting LSC resistance mechanisms.


(B) Maximum projection of a 500-frame videonanoscopy acquisition, showing JAM-B and JAM-C positions over time (left). Maps of JAM-B and JAM-C trajectories represented by gradients of green and magenta, respectively, according to time, and superimposed on the transmission image of the cells (right). Inserts show magnifications of the framed areas. Spatiotemporal colocalizations are denoted by white circles with a size proportional to duration. Several concentric circles correspond to successive colocalizations at a nearby locations but with different durations. (C) Images from the same videonanoscopy acquisition corresponding to the area framed in B, with colocalization events or not (white circle or green/magenta arrowheads, respectively).

New article on early leukocyte activation triggered by viscoelastic changes in Biophysical journal

This article presents the evidence that immune cells are regulating very rapidely, even before classical signalling times as recorded by calcium fluxes, their mechanical properties when encountering an activating substrate, being either artificial (bead) or physiological (APC). For this, we developed a micropipette-based rheometer to track cell viscous and elastic properties. We have shown that leukocytes become up to 10 times stiffer and more viscous during their activation. Elastic and viscous properties evolve in parallel, preserving a ratio characteristic of the leukocyte subtype. These mechanical measurements set up a complete picture of the mechanics of leukocyte activation and provide a signature of cell function


Activation of three types of leukocytes studied with the micropipette rheometer. Left (a): T cell, middle (b): B cell, right (c): PLB cells. All bars represent 5 μm.

A new article on lymphocyte swimming in Biophysical Journal 

SIGNIFICANCE Leukocytes have a ubiquitous capacity to migrate on or in solid matrices and with or without adhesion, which is instrumental to fight infections. The precise mechanisms sustaining migration remain, however, arguable. It is for instance widely accepted that leukocytes cannot crawl on two-dimensional substrates without adhesion. In contrast, we showed that human lymphocytes swim on nonadherent two-dimensional substrates and in suspension. Furthermore, our experiments and modeling suggest that propulsion hardly rely on cell body deformations and predominantly on molecular paddling by transmembrane proteins protruding outside the cell. For physics, this study reveals a new type of microswimmer, and for biology, it suggests that leukocyte’s ubiquitous crawling may have evolved from an early machinery of swimming shared by various eukaryotic cells.

Biophysical Journal 119, 1157–1177, September 15, 2020 1157


This paper was commented on in Science (link), CellPress (link), Eurekalert (link) and Science&Vie (link) and CNRS (link).

A new article on reverse adhesive haptotaxis mecanism performed by human T lymphocytes in Journal of Cell Science

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.

A new article on T cells response to substrate elasticity in PNAS

Researchers from LAI and CINAM have joined their efforts to study how T-lymphocytes sense the mechanics of their underlying substrate in vitro, an important but poorly understood question. Using a wide range of stiffnesses for substrates covered with antibodies against T-Cell receptors, they observed that T-cell spread more on increasingly stiff substrates, until a maximal stiffness, where they start to spread less. This is reconciling apparent contradictory results from the literature. It was also observed that involvement of integrins in this process reestablish a monotonous response, as observed for non-immune cells. The observations are rationalized in terms of a simple quantitative clutch model which will be further tested.


A new article on three-dimensional reconstruction of the cell lamellipod without need of fluorescent labelling by using Interferential Nanoscopy in Nano Letters

Long-time expertise of LAI  (in collaboration with CINAM) in Reflection interference contrast microscopy have recently permitted a new advance to perform nanometer scale mapping of the cell lamellipod in vitro. Combining multicolor RICM with in silico reconstruction and using optical modeling, the topography of the upper and lower membrane of a lamellipod was reconstructed, as well as the refractive index mapped. These measurements were successfully compared with independent determinations using Atomic Force Microscopy or Quantitative Phase Imaging which both provide only a partial information.


3D representations of basal membrane (left: seen from under) and of apical membrane (right : seen from top).

Nature Article released with LAI participation

The group of Tam Mignot, with which O. Theodoly has been collaborating for 10 years, is pursuing his leading research activity on the mechanisms of micro-organisms motility. A novel paper in the journal Nature with association of LAI for technical support on microscopy experiments has just been published: “The mechanism of force transmission at bacterial focal adhesion complexes”, Volume: 539, Issue: 7630, Pages: 530, DOI: 10.1038/nature20121, Published: NOV 24 2016.