Characteristics of cell migration in a confluent population depend on the nature of cell-to-cell interactions as well as cell-intrinsic properties such as the directional persistence in crawling. In addition, biological tissues (or cell cultures) almost always carry anisotropies and they too can significantly affect cell motility. In the light of this viewpoint, the emergence of cellular senescences in a confluent population of active cells raises an interesting question. Cellular senescence is a process through which a cell enters a permanent growth-arrest state and generally exhibits a dramatic body expansion. Therefore, randomly emerging senescent cells transform an initially homogeneous cell population to a “binary mixture” of two distinct cell types. Here, using in vitro cultures of MDA-MB-231 cells we investigate how spatially localized cellular senescence affect the motility of active cells within a confluent population. Importantly, we estimate the intercellular surface energy of the interface between non-senescent and senescent MDA-MB-231 cells by combining the analysis on the motile behaviors of non-senescent cells encircling senescent cells and the result of extensive numerical simulations of a cellular Potts model. We find that the adhesion of normal cells to senescent cells is much weaker than that among normal cells and that the ‘arclength’ traveled by a normal cell along the boundary of a senescent cell, on average, is several times greater than the persistence length of normal cell in a densely packed homogeneous population. The directional persistent time of normal cell during its contact with a senescent cell also increases significantly. We speculate that the phenomenon could be a general feature associated with senescent cells as the enormous expansion of senescent cell’s membrane would inevitably decrease the density of cell adhesion molecules.
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