Assessing the role of spatial correlations during collective cell spreading.
Treloar KK., Simpson MJ., Binder BJ., McElwain DLS., Baker RE.
Spreading cell fronts are essential features of development, repair and disease processes. Many mathematical models used to describe the motion of cell fronts, such as Fisher's equation, invoke a mean-field assumption which implies that there is no spatial structure, such as cell clustering, present. Here, we examine the presence of spatial structure using a combination of in vitro circular barrier assays, discrete random walk simulations and pair correlation functions. In particular, we analyse discrete simulation data using pair correlation functions to show that spatial structure can form in a spreading population of cells either through sufficiently strong cell-to-cell adhesion or sufficiently rapid cell proliferation. We analyse images from a circular barrier assay describing the spreading of a population of MM127 melanoma cells using the same pair correlation functions. Our results indicate that the spreading melanoma cell populations remain very close to spatially uniform, suggesting that the strength of cell-to-cell adhesion and the rate of cell proliferation are both sufficiently small so as not to induce any spatial patterning in the spreading populations.