Haptotaxis is a mechanism proposed at the end of the 1960s to explain cell motility. It describes cell movement induced by an adhesion gradient. In this work, we present evidence for self-induced haptotaxis using negatively charged giant vesicles interacting with positively charged supported lipid bilayers, which has not been previously described. Depending on the charge of the vesicle, we observed different behaviors. At low charge, no adhesion occurs. At high charge, the vesicle adheres but does not move. In a restricted range of intermediate charge densities, we found that the vesicle moves spontaneously with velocities of the order of a few micrometers per second over distances of >100 microm. We show that a local lipid transfer between the giant vesicle and the supported lipid bilayer takes place during the adhesion, breaking the symmetry and inducing a lateral charge gradient. This charge gradient polarizes the giant vesicle and induces its motion. To explain our observations, we propose a scaling model that relates the adhesion energy to the velocity of vesicle motion and to the characteristic lipid transfer time. Our measurements indicate that the effective adhesion energy is strongly reduced by counterions, which are dynamically trapped between the vesicle and the supported bilayer.
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