Collective cellular migration within the epithelial layer impacts upon development, wound healing and cancer invasion, but remains poorly understood. Prevailing conceptual frameworks tend to focus on the isolated role of each particular underlying factor – taken one at a time or at most a few at a time – and thus might not be tailored to describe a cellular collective that embodies a wide palette of physical and molecular interactions that are both strong and complex. To bridge this gap, we shift the spotlight to the emerging concept of cell jamming, which points to only a small set of parameters that govern when a cellular collective might jam and rigidify like a solid, or instead unjam and flow like a fluid. As gateways to cellular migration, the unjamming transition (UJT) and the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) share certain superficial similarities, but their congruence – or lack thereof – remains unclear. In this Commentary, we discuss aspects of cell jamming, its established role in human epithelial cell layers derived from the airways of non-asthmatic and asthmatic donors, and its speculative but emerging roles in development and cancer cell invasion.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
Our research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health [grant numbers U01CA202123, R01HL107561, P01HL120839]; the Francis Family Foundation; the American Heart Association [grant number 13SDG14320004]; and the National Research Foundation of Korea [grant number NRF-2013S1A2A2035518, Global Research Network Program]. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd