Cells employing amoeboid motility exhibit repetitive cycles of rapid expansion and contraction and apply coordinated traction forces to their environment. Although aspects of this process are well studied, it is unclear how the cell controls the coordination of cell length changes with adhesion to the surface. Here, we develop a simple model to mechanistically explain the emergence of periodic changes in length and spatiotemporal dynamics of traction forces measured in chemotaxing unicellular amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum. In contrast to the biochemical mechanisms that have been implicated in the coordination of some cellular processes, we show that many features of amoeboid locomotion emerge from a simple mechanochemical model. The mechanism for interaction with the environment in Dictyostelium is unknown and thus, we explore different cell-environment interaction models to reveal that mechanosensitive adhesions are necessary to reproduce the spatiotemporal adhesion patterns. In this modeling framework, we find that the other motility modes, such as smooth gliding, arise naturally with variations in the physical properties of the surface. Thus, our work highlights the prominent role of biomechanics in determining the emergent features of amoeboid locomotion.
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