Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Cell Morphology and Migration Linked to Substrate Rigidity



Yong Ni, Martin Chiang


A mathematical model, based on thermodynamics, was developed to demonstrate the substrate mechanics influences the cell morphology and migration. The mechanisms by which substrate rigidity are translated into cell morphological changes and cell movement are described. The model takes into account the competition between the elastic energies in the cell/substrate system and work of adhesion at the cell periphery. The cell morphology and migration are determined according to the minimum of the total free energy of the cell/substrate system. By using this model, reported experimental observations on the cell morphology changes and on cell migration can be better understood with a theoretical basis. In addition, these observations can be more accurately correlated with the variation of substrate rigidity. This study indicates that the activity of the adherent cell is dependent not only on the substrate rigidity but also is correlated with the relative rigidity between the cell and substrate. Moreover, the study suggests that the cell stiffness can be estimated based on the substrate stiffness corresponding to the change of trend in morphological stability.
Soft Matter


cell morphology, Durotaxis, migration, phase-field model, Rho activity, substrate rigidity


Ni, Y. and Chiang, M. (2007), Cell Morphology and Migration Linked to Substrate Rigidity, Soft Matter, [online], (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created December 31, 2006, Updated October 12, 2021