Non-Gaussianity, population heterogeneity, and transient superdiffusion in the spreading dynamics of amoeboid cells†
What is the underlying diffusion process governing the spreading dynamics and search strategies employed by amoeboid cells? Based on the statistical analysis of experimental single-cell tracking data of the two-dimensional motion of the Dictyostelium discoideum amoeboid cells, we quantify their diffusive behaviour based on a number of standard and complementary statistical indicators. We compute the ensemble- and time-averaged mean-squared displacements (MSDs) of the diffusing amoebae cells and observe a pronounced spread of short-time diffusion coefficients and anomalous MSD-scaling exponents for individual cells. The distribution functions of the cell displacements, the long-tailed distribution of instantaneous speeds, and the velocity autocorrelations are also computed. In particular, we observe a systematic superdiffusive short-time behaviour for the ensemble- and time-averaged MSDs of the amoeboid cells. Also, a clear anti-correlation of scaling exponents and generalised diffusivity values for different cells is detected. Most significantly, we demonstrate that the distribution function of the cell displacements has a strongly non-Gaussian shape and—using a rescaled spatio-temporal variable—the cell-displacement data collapse onto a universal master curve. The current analysis of single-cell motions can be implemented for quantifying diffusive behaviours in other living-matter systems, in particular, when effects of active transport, non-Gaussian displacements, and heterogeneity of the population are involved in the dynamics.