Previous biophysical models of ameboid crawling have described cell movement in terms of a persistent random walk. Speed and orientation were treated in the latter model as independent and temporally homogeneous stochastic processes. We show here that, at least in the case of Dictyostelium discoideum, both speed control and reorientation processes involve a deterministic, periodic component. We also show that the processes are synchronized and negatively correlated, as was suggested by earlier findings. That is, increased turning correlates with periods of slow movement. Therefore, previous models are inconsistent with the behavior of cells. Using a heuristic approach, we have developed a mathematical model that describes the statistical properties of the cell's velocity and movement of its centroid. Our observations and the model are consistent with the phenomenological description of ameboid motility as a cyclic process of pseudopod extension and retraction.
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