Living cells orient the cytoskeleton polarity and directional migration in response to spatial gradients of multiple types of cues. The resulting tactic behaviors are critical for the proper cell localization in the context of complex single-cell and tissue behaviors. In this perspective, we highlight the recent discovery of, to our knowledge, a new -taxis phenomenon, the topotaxis, which mediates directional cell migration in response to the gradients of such topographic features as the density of extracellular matrix fibers. The direction of topotactic migration critically depends on the effective stiffness of the cortical cytoskeleton, which is controlled by the balance between two parallel signaling pathways activated by the extracellular matrix input. Topotaxis can account for such striking cell behaviors as the opposite directionality of migration of benign and metastatic cancer cells and certain aspects of the wound-healing process. We anticipate that, in conjunction with other tactic phenomena, topotaxis can provide critical information for understanding and design of tissue structure and function.
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