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Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Eur. Phys. J. E 3, 101-110

Nematic order-disorder state transition in a liquid crystal analogue formed by oriented and migrating amoeboid cells

R. Kemkemer1 - V. Teichgräber1 - S. Schrank-Kaufmann1 - D. Kaufmann2 - H. Gruler1

1Department of bioPhysics, University of Ulm, D-89069 Ulm, Germany
2 Department of Human Genetics, University of Ulm, D-89069 Ulm, Germany

Received 2 August 1999 and Received in final form 5 January 2000

In cell culture, liquid crystal analogues are formed by elongated, migrating, and interacting amoeboid cells. An apolar nematic liquid crystal analogue is formed by different cell types like human melanocytes (=pigment cells of the skin), human fibroblasts (=connective tissue cells), human osteoblasts (=bone cells), human adipocytes (=fat cells), etc. The nematic analogue is quite well described by i) a stochastic machine equation responsible for cell orientation and ii) a self-organized extracellular guiding signal, E2, which is proportional to the orientational order parameter as well as to the cell density. The investigations were mainly made with melanocytes. The transition to an isotropic state analogue can be accomplished either by changing the strength of interaction (e.g. variation of the cell density) or by influencing the cellular machinery by an externally applied signal: i) An isotropic gaseous state analogue is observed at low cell density ( $\rho < 110$ melanocytes/mm2) and a nematic liquid crystal state analogue at higher cell density. ii) The nematic state analogue disappears if the bipolar shaped melanocytes are forced to become a star-like shape (induced by colchicine or staurosporine). The analogy between nematic liquid crystal state analogue formed by elongated, migrating and interacting cells and the nematic liquid crystal phase formed by interacting elongated molecules is discussed.

87.18.-h Multicellular phenomena - 87.18.Ed Aggregation and other collective behavior of motile cells - 64.70.-p Specific phase transitions

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