Incorporating pushing in exclusion-process models of cell migration

Christian Yates, Andrew Parker, Ruth E. Baker

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The macroscale movement behavior of a wide range of isolated migrating cells has been well characterized experimentally. Recently, attention has turned to understanding the behavior of cells in crowded environments. In such scenarios it is possible for cells to interact, inducing neighboring cells to move in order to make room for their own movements or progeny. Although the behavior of interacting cells has been modeled extensively through volume-exclusion processes, few models, thus far, have explicitly accounted for the ability of cells to actively displace each other in order to create space for themselves. In this work we consider both on- and off-lattice volume-exclusion position-jump processes in which cells are explicitly allowed to induce movements in their near neighbors in order to create space for themselves to move or proliferate into. We refer to this behavior as pushing. From these simple individual-level representations we derive continuum partial differential equations for the average occupancy of the domain. We find that, for limited amounts of pushing, the comparison between the averaged individual-level simulations and the population-level model is nearly as good as in the scenario without pushing. Interestingly, we find that, in the on-lattice case, the diffusion coefficient of the population-level model is increased by pushing, whereas, for the particular off-lattice model that we investigate, the diffusion coefficient is reduced. We conclude, therefore, that it is important to consider carefully the appropriate individual-level model to use when representing complex cell-cell interactions such as pushing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number052711
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2015


  • Cell migration, cell-cell pushing, exclusion processes, Volume exclusion, continuum model


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