[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Focal adhesions are large multi-protein assemblies that form at the basal surface of cells on planar dishes, and that mediate cell signalling, force transduction and adhesion to the substratum. Although much is known about focal adhesion components in two-dimensional (2D) systems, their role in migrating cells in a more physiological three-dimensional (3D) matrix is largely unknown. Live-cell microscopy shows that for cells fully embedded in a 3D matrix, focal adhesion proteins, including vinculin, paxillin, talin, alpha-actinin, zyxin, VASP, FAK and p130Cas, do not form aggregates but are diffusely distributed throughout the cytoplasm. Despite the absence of detectable focal adhesions, focal adhesion proteins still modulate cell motility, but in a manner distinct from cells on planar substrates. Rather, focal adhesion proteins in matrix-embedded cells regulate cell speed and persistence by affecting protrusion activity and matrix deformation, two processes that have no direct role in controlling 2D cell speed. This study shows that membrane protrusions constitute a critical motility/matrix-traction module that drives cell motility in a 3D matrix.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The enzyme Transglutaminase is used as a novel method of increasing the stiffness of collagen gel without affecting other characteristics. This discovery has allowed for a more accurate analysis of cancer cell motility in a stiffer ECM leading to a potential understanding of the mechanism behind tumor metastasis. Johns Hopkins University, Office of the Provost
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The progression of several human cancers correlates with the loss of cytoplasmic protein alpha-catenin from E-cadherin-rich intercellular junctions and loss of adhesion. However, the potential role of alpha-catenin in directly modulating the adhesive function of individual E-cadherin molecules in human cancer is unknown. Here we use single-molecule force spectroscopy to probe the tensile strength, unstressed bond lifetime, and interaction energy between E-cadherins expressed on the surface of live human parental breast cancer cells lacking alpha-catenin and these cells where alpha-catenin is re-expressed. We find that the tensile strength and the lifetime of single E-cadherin/E-cadherin bonds between parental cells are significantly lower over a wide range of loading rates. Statistical analysis of the force displacement spectra reveals that single cadherin bonds between cancer cells feature an exceedingly low energy barrier against tensile forces and low molecular stiffness. Disassembly of filamentous actin using latrunculin B has no significant effect on the strength of single intercellular E-cadherin bonds. The absence of alpha-catenin causes a dominant negative effect on both global cell-cell adhesion and single E-cadherin bond strength. These results suggest that the loss of alpha-catenin alone drastically reduces the adhesive force between individual cadherin pairs on adjoining cells, explain the global loss of cell adhesion in human breast cancer cells, and show that the forced expression of alpha-catenin in cancer cells can restore both higher intercellular avidity and intercellular E-cadherin bond strength.