Epithelial cell migration is an essential part of embryogenesis and tissue regeneration, yet their migration is least understood. Using our three-dimensional (3D) motility analysis, migrating epithelial cells formed an atypical polarized cell shape with the nucleus leading the cell front and a contractile cell rear. Migrating epithelial cells exerted traction forces to deform both the anterior and posterior extracellular matrix toward the cell body. The cell leading edge exhibited a myosin II-dependent retrograde flow with the magnitude and direction consistent with surrounding network deformation. Interestingly, on a two-dimensional substrate, myosin IIA-deficient cells migrated faster than wild-type cells, but in a 3D gel, these myosin IIA-deficient cells were unpolarized and immobile. In contrast, the migration rates of myosin IIB-deficient cells were similar to wild-type cells. Therefore, myosin IIA, not myosin IIB, is required for 3D epithelial cell migration.
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