Chemotaxis of cancer cells and their associated inflammatory and stromal cells is essential during tumor progression and dissemination. It especially plays a role during the metastatic cascade, where a tumor cell invades, intravasates, extravasates, and finally grows at a distant site. Chemotaxis is tightly regulated in healthy cells and mediated by chemokines, growth factors, and their receptors. However, during cancer progression, reprogramming of the chemotactic pathways can abrogate this regulation in favor of metastasis.

A chemotaxis assay is conducted to analyze whether or not a cell type directly orients and migrates towards a defined chemoattractant. Chemotaxis is a critical process during cancer development and immune infiltration, making chemotaxis assays a powerful tool in cancer research.

Roussos, E. T., Condeelis, J. S., & Patsialou, A. (2011). Chemotaxis in cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer. 10.1038/NRC3078
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Continue reading about the planning, conduction, and data analysis of chemotaxis assays or download the whole "Chemotaxis" Application Guide (PDF).


3D live cell imaging of migrating HT-1080 cancer cells in a Collagen matrix. LifeAct-expressing HT-1080 cells (green) were seeded in a 1.5 mg/ml Collagen Type I, Rat Tail layer (white) in the µ-Slide Chemotaxis. Cell migration was documented by taking a photo every 300 seconds on a Zeiss Confocal Microscope LSM 880 AxioObserver using a water immersion objective lens 40x/1.2.

Experimental workflow

ibidi Solutions for Chemotaxis Assays

The µ-Slide Chemotaxis and the sticky-Slide Chemotaxis are ideal for analyzing single cell migration in 2D and 3D.


Chemotactic gradients can be easily established in water-based 3D gels, such as Collagen I gels, because the gel structure does not hinder the formation of a soluble gradient by diffusion.


The ibidi Stage Top Incubators provide physiological conditions for live cell imaging during chemotaxis assays on every standard inverted microscope. They include CO2 and O2 control as well as actively controlled humidity. They can be used with single slides or with up to 4 slides (e.g., the µ-Slide Chemotaxis).


Selected References

Evaluation of the chemotactic function of NET-DNA (neutrophil extracellular traps) in breast cancer cells using the µ-Slide Chemotaxis

Yang, L., Liu, Q., Zhang, X., Liu, X., Zhou, B., Chen, J., Huang, D., Li, J., Li, H., Chen, F., Liu, J., Xing, Y., Chen, X., Su, S., & Song, E. (2020). DNA of neutrophil extracellular traps promotes cancer metastasis via CCDC25. Nature. 10.1038/s41586-020-2394-6
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Analysis of the motility of single tumor cells using the µ-Slide Chemotaxis in different cancer types

Agarwal, E., Goldman, A. R., Tang, H. Y., Kossenkov, A. v., Ghosh, J. C., Languino, L. R., Vaira, V., Speicher, D. W., & Altieri, D. C. (2021). A cancer ubiquitome landscape identifies metabolic reprogramming as target of Parkin tumor suppression. Science Advances. 10.1126/sciadv.abg7287
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Directed migration in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and mesenchymal stem cells using the µ-Slide Chemotaxis

Mestre-Farrera, A., Bruch-Oms, M., Peña, R., Rodríguez-Morato, J., Alba-Castellon, L., Comerma, L., Quintela-Fandino, M., Duñach, M., Baulida, J., Pozo, O. J., & de Herreros, A. G. (2021). Glutamine-Directed Migration of Cancer-Activated Fibroblasts Facilitates Epithelial Tumor Invasion. Cancer Research. 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-0622
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