The motile behavior and cytoskeletal structures of fish epidermal cells (keratocytes) in the presence and absence of direct current (DC) electric fields were examined. These cells spontaneously show highly directional locomotion in culture, migrating at rates of up to 1 micron/s. When DC electric fields between 0.5 and 15 V/cm are applied, single epidermal cells as well as cell clusters and cell sheets migrate towards the cathode. Cell clusters and sheets break apart into single migratory cells in the upper range of these field strengths. Cell shape and morphology are unaltered when the keratocytes are guided by an electric field. Neither the spontaneous locomotion nor the electrically guided motility were found to be microtubule dependent. 1 mM La3+, 10 mM Co2+, 50 microM verapamil, and 50 microM nitrendipine (calcium channel antagonists) reversibly inhibited lamellipod formation and cell locomotion in both spontaneously migrating and electrically guided cells. Ciba-Geigy Product 28392, which stimulates the opening of calcium channels, and is a competitive inhibitor of nitrendipine, has no effect on the locomotion of keratocytes. Cell motility was also unaffected by hyperpolarizing and depolarizing (low and high K+) media. It is argued that while a tissue cell may accommodate changes in resting membrane potential without becoming more or less motile, the cell may not be able to counterbalance the effects of depolarization and hyperpolarization simultaneously. In this context, a gradient of membrane potential, which is induced by an external DC electric field, will serve as a persistent stimulus for cell locomotion.

This content is only available as a PDF.