Deterministic actin waves as generators of cell polarization cues

Dendritic cells “patrol” the human body to detect pathogens. In their search, dendritic cells perform a random walk by amoeboid migration. The efficiency of pathogen detection depends on the properties of the random walk. It is not known how the dendritic cells control these properties. Here, we quantify dendritic cell migration under well-defined 2-dimensional confinement and in a 3-dimensional collagen matrix through recording their long-term trajectories. We find 2 different migration states: persistent migration, during which the dendritic cells move along curved paths, and diffusive migration, which is characterized by successive sharp turns. These states exhibit differences in the actin distributions. Our theoretical and experimental analyses indicate that this kind of motion can be generated by spontaneous actin polymerization waves that contribute to dendritic cell polarization and migration. The relative distributions of persistent and diffusive migration can be changed by modification of the molecular actin filament nucleation and assembly rates. Thus, dendritic cells can control their migration patterns and adapt to specific environments. Our study offers an additional perspective on how dendritic cells tune their searches for pathogens.