Cell migration is a universal process central to tissue formation during embryonic development, wound healing and coordination of immune and inflammatory responses. Most of the signal cascades leading to cell migration are well preserved between cell types.
For a robust and functional immune system, immune cells need to acquire the capacity to migrate in response to environmental cues such as infection or tissue damage. For example, migration of naïve T lymphocytes into lymphoid organs, where they may encounter cognate antigen for the first time, is essential for their subsequent activation, differentiation and elaboration of effector functions. On the other hand, if migratory responses are compromised or over-exuberant, this could lead to failure to resolve infections on the one hand, or autoimmune disease on the other.
In addition, this mechanism is the major contributor to the process of metastasis and cancer related deaths. Cancer cells can migrate as single cells or in small clusters to spread from the initial site of tumour growth. In order to do this they acquire an invasive phenotype, which is characterized by the loss of cell-cell interactions and increased cell motility. A large proportion of cancer cells have a loose actin cytoskeleton, which is reminiscent of the immune cells, a fast moving cell group.