A computational study of amoeboid motility in 3D: the role of extracellular matrix geometry, cell deformability, and cell–matrix adhesion

Eric J. Campbell, Prosenjit Bagchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amoeboid cells often migrate using pseudopods, which are membrane protrusions that grow, bifurcate, and retract dynamically, resulting in a net cell displacement. Many cells within the human body, such as immune cells, epithelial cells, and even metastatic cancer cells, can migrate using the amoeboid phenotype. Amoeboid motility is a complex and multiscale process, where cell deformation, biochemistry, and cytosolic and extracellular fluid motions are coupled. Furthermore, the extracellular matrix (ECM) provides a confined, complex, and heterogeneous environment for the cells to navigate through. Amoeboid cells can migrate without significantly remodeling the ECM using weak or no adhesion, instead utilizing their deformability and the microstructure of the ECM to gain enough traction. While a large volume of work exists on cell motility on 2D substrates, amoeboid motility is 3D in nature. Despite recent progress in modeling cellular motility in 3D, there is a lack of systematic evaluations of the role of ECM microstructure, cell deformability, and adhesion on 3D motility. To fill this knowledge gap, here we present a multiscale, multiphysics modeling study of amoeboid motility through 3D-idealized ECM. The model is a coupled fluid‒structure and coarse-grain biochemistry interaction model that accounts for large deformation of cells, pseudopod dynamics, cytoplasmic and extracellular fluid motion, stochastic dynamics of cell-ECM adhesion, and microstructural (pore-scale) geometric details of the ECM. The key finding of the study is that cell deformation and matrix porosity strongly influence amoeboid motility, while weak adhesion and microscale structural details of the ECM have secondary but subtle effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-191
Number of pages25
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Modeling and Simulation


  • Cellular motility
  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Immersed-boundary method
  • Multiscale modeling
  • Numerical model

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