Electrical dimensions in cell science

Colin Darnley McCaig, Bing Song, Ann Marie Rajnicek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

239 Citations (Scopus)


Cells undergo a variety of physiological processes, including division, migration and differentiation, under the influence of endogenous electrical cues, which are generated physiologically and pathologically in the extracellular and sometimes intracellular spaces. These signals are transduced to regulate cell behaviours profoundly, both in vitro and in vivo. Bioelectricity influences cellular processes as fundamental as control of the cell cycle, cell proliferation, cancer-cell migration, electrical signalling in the adult brain, embryonic neuronal cell migration, axon outgrowth, spinal-cord repair, epithelial wound repair, tissue regeneration and establishment of left-right body asymmetry. In addition to direct effects on cells, electrical gradients interact with coexisting extracellular chemical gradients. Indeed, cells can integrate and respond to electrical and chemical cues in combination. This Commentary details how electrical signals control multiple cell behaviours and argues that study of the interplay between combined electrical and chemical gradients is underdeveloped yet necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4267-4276
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number23
Early online date18 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • directed migration
  • electric field
  • polarity
  • regeneration
  • wound healing
  • growth cone guidance
  • spinal-cord-injury
  • directional migration
  • asymmetric redistribution
  • potential difference
  • membrane-potentials
  • cerebrospinal-fluid
  • neuronal migration
  • corneal epithelium
  • Directed migration
  • Electric field
  • Polarity
  • Regeneration
  • Wound healing


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