Simulation of melanoblast displacements reveals new features of developmental migration

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To distribute and establish the melanocyte lineage throughout the skin and other developing organs, melanoblasts undergo several rounds of proliferation, accompanied by migration through complex environments and differentiation. Melanoblast migration requires interaction with extracellular matrix of the epidermal basement membrane and with surrounding keratinocytes in the developing skin. Migration has been characterized by measuring speed, trajectory and directionality of movement, but there are many unanswered questions about what motivates and defines melanoblast migration. Here, we have established a general mathematical model to simulate the movement of melanoblasts in the epidermis based on biological data, assumptions and hypotheses. Comparisons between experimental data and computer simulations reinforce some biological assumptions, and suggest new ideas for how melanoblasts and keratinocytes might influence each other during development. For example, it appears that melanoblasts instruct each other to allow a homogeneous distribution in the tissue and that keratinocytes may attract melanoblasts until one is stably attached to them. Our model reveals new features of how melanoblasts move and, in particular, suggest that melanoblasts leave a repulsive trail behind them as they move through the skin.

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Laurent-Gengoux, P., Petit, V., Aktary, Z., Gallagher, S., Tweedy, L., Machesky, L., & Larue, L. (2018). Simulation of melanoblast displacements reveals new features of developmental migration. Development (Cambridge), 145(12).

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