Fish epidermal keratocytes maintain an overall fan shape during their crawling migration. The shape-determination mechanism has been described theoretically and experimentally on the basis of graded radial extension of the leading edge, but the relationship between shape and traction forces has not been clarified. Migrating keratocytes can be divided into fragments by treatment with the protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine. Fragments containing a nucleus and cytoplasm behave as mini-keratocytes and maintain the same fan shape as the original cells. We measured the shape of the leading edge, together with the areas of the ventral region and traction forces, of keratocytes and mini-keratocytes. The shapes of keratocytes and mini-keratocytes were similar. Mini-keratocytes exerted traction forces at the rear left and right ends, just like keratocytes. The magnitude of the traction forces was proportional to the area of the keratocytes and mini-keratocytes. The myosin II ATPase inhibitor blebbistatin decreased the forces at the rear left and right ends of the keratocytes and expanded their shape laterally. These results suggest that keratocyte shape depends on the distribution of the traction forces, and that the magnitude of the traction forces depends on the area of the cells.
2016 by Japan Society for Cell Biology