The mechanical rigidity of the extracellular matrix regulates the structure, motility, and proliferation of glioma cells.
ABSTRACT: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a malignant astrocytoma of the central nervous system associated with a median survival time of 15 months, even with aggressive therapy. This rapid progression is due in part to diffuse infiltration of single tumor cells into the brain parenchyma, which is thought to involve aberrant interactions between tumor cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM). Here, we test the hypothesis that mechanical cues from the ECM contribute to key tumor cell properties relevant to invasion. We cultured a series of glioma cell lines (U373-MG, U87-MG, U251-MG, SNB19, C6) on fibronectin-coated polymeric ECM substrates of defined mechanical rigidity and investigated the role of ECM rigidity in regulating tumor cell structure, migration, and proliferation. On highly rigid ECMs, tumor cells spread extensively, form prominent stress fibers and mature focal adhesions, and migrate rapidly. As ECM rigidity is lowered to values comparable with normal brain tissue, tumor cells appear rounded and fail to productively migrate. Remarkably, cell proliferation is also strongly regulated by ECM rigidity, with cells dividing much more rapidly on rigid than on compliant ECMs. Pharmacologic inhibition of nonmuscle myosin II-based contractility blunts this rigidity-sensitivity and rescues cell motility on highly compliant substrates. Collectively, our results provide support for a novel model in which ECM rigidity provides a transformative, microenvironmental cue that acts through actomyosin contractility to regulate the invasive properties of GBM tumor cells.
Project description:Tumor-initiating cells (TIC) perpetuate tumor growth, enable therapeutic resistance, and drive initiation of successive tumors. Virtually nothing is known about the role of mechanotransductive signaling in controlling TIC tumorigenesis, despite the recognized importance of altered mechanics in tissue dysplasia and the common observation that extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness strongly regulates cell behavior. To address this open question, we cultured primary human glioblastoma (GBM) TICs on laminin-functionalized ECMs spanning a range of stiffnesses. Surprisingly, we found that these cells were largely insensitive to ECM stiffness cues, evading the inhibition of spreading, migration, and proliferation typically imposed by compliant ECMs. We hypothesized that this insensitivity may result from insufficient generation of myosin-dependent contractile force. Indeed, we found that both pharmacologic and genetic activation of cell contractility through RhoA GTPase, Rho-associated kinase, or myosin light chain kinase restored stiffness-dependent spreading and motility, with TICs adopting the expected rounded and nonmotile phenotype on soft ECMs. Moreover, constitutive activation of RhoA restricted three-dimensional invasion in both spheroid implantation and Transwell paradigms. Orthotopic xenotransplantation studies revealed that control TICs formed tumors with classical GBM histopathology including diffuse infiltration and secondary foci, whereas TICs expressing a constitutively active mutant of RhoA produced circumscribed masses and yielded a 30% enhancement in mean survival time. This is the first direct evidence that manipulation of mechanotransductive signaling can alter the tumor-initiating capacity of GBM TICs, supporting further exploration of these signals as potential therapeutic targets and predictors of tumor-initiating capacity within heterogeneous tumor cell populations.
Project description:The physical properties of two-dimensional (2D) extracellular matrices (ECMs) modulate cell adhesion dynamics and motility, but little is known about the roles of local microenvironmental differences in three-dimensional (3D) ECMs. Here we generate 3D collagen gels of varying matrix microarchitectures to characterize their regulation of 3D adhesion dynamics and cell migration. ECMs containing bundled fibrils demonstrate enhanced local adhesion-scale stiffness and increased adhesion stability through balanced ECM/adhesion coupling, whereas highly pliable reticular matrices promote adhesion retraction. 3D adhesion dynamics are locally regulated by ECM rigidity together with integrin/ECM association and myosin II contractility. Unlike 2D migration, abrogating contractility stalls 3D migration regardless of ECM pore size. We find force is not required for clustering of activated integrins on 3D native collagen fibrils. We propose that efficient 3D migration requires local balancing of contractility with ECM stiffness to stabilize adhesions, which facilitates the detachment of activated integrins from ECM fibrils.
Project description:Adipose stromal cells (ASCs) are the primary source of local estrogens in adipose tissue, aberrant production of which promotes estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. Here we show that extracellular matrix (ECM) rigidity and cell contractility are two opposing determinants for estrogen output of ASCs. Using synthetic ECMs and elastomeric micropost arrays with tunable rigidity, we find that increasing matrix compliance induces transcription of aromatase, a rate-limiting enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis. This mechanical cue is transduced sequentially by Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 (DDR1), c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1), and phosphorylated JunB, which binds to and activates two breast cancer-associated aromatase promoters. In contrast, elevated cell contractility due to actin stress fiber formation dampens aromatase transcription. Mechanically stimulated stromal estrogen production enhances estrogen-dependent transcription in ER+ tumor cells and promotes their growth. This novel mechanotransduction pathway underlies communications between ECM, stromal hormone output, and cancer cell growth within the same microenvironment. Total RNA was isolated from primary adipose stromal cells after 2d culture or 3d Collagen gel for 21 hours. Triplicates for each conditioned were analyzed
Project description:Tumor invasion and metastasis are strongly regulated by biophysical interactions between tumor cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM). While the influence of ECM stiffness on cell migration, adhesion, and contractility has been extensively studied in 2D culture, extension of this concept to 3D cultures that more closely resemble tissue has proven challenging, because perturbations that change matrix stiffness often concurrently change cellular confinement. This coupling is particularly problematic given that matrix-imposed steric barriers can regulate invasion speed independent of mechanics. Here we introduce a matrix platform based on microfabrication of channels of defined wall stiffness and geometry that allows independent variation of ECM stiffness and channel width. For a given ECM stiffness, cells confined to narrow channels surprisingly migrate faster than cells in wide channels or on unconstrained 2D surfaces, which we attribute to increased polarization of cell-ECM traction forces. Confinement also enables cells to migrate increasingly rapidly as ECM stiffness rises, in contrast with the biphasic relationship observed on unconfined ECMs. Inhibition of nonmuscle myosin II dissipates this traction polarization and renders the relationship between migration speed and ECM stiffness comparatively insensitive to matrix confinement. We test these hypotheses in silico by devising a multiscale mathematical model that relates cellular force generation to ECM stiffness and geometry, which we show is capable of recapitulating key experimental trends. These studies represent a paradigm for investigating matrix regulation of invasion and demonstrate that matrix confinement alters the relationship between cell migration speed and ECM stiffness.
Project description:Extracellular matrix (ECM) supplies both physical and chemical signals to cells and provides a substrate through which fibroblasts migrate during wound repair. To directly assess how ECM composition regulates this process, we used a nested 3D matrix model in which cell-populated collagen buttons were embedded in cell-free collagen or fibrin matrices. Time-lapse microscopy was used to record the dynamic pattern of cell migration into the outer matrices, and 3D confocal imaging was used to assess cell connectivity and cytoskeletal organization. Corneal fibroblasts stimulated with PDGF migrated more rapidly into collagen as compared to fibrin. In addition, the pattern of fibroblast migration into fibrin and collagen ECMs was strikingly different. Corneal fibroblasts migrating into collagen matrices developed dendritic processes and moved independently, whereas cells migrating into fibrin matrices had a more fusiform morphology and formed an interconnected meshwork. A similar pattern was observed when using dermal fibroblasts, suggesting that this response is not unique to corneal cells. We next cultured corneal fibroblasts within and on top of standard collagen and fibrin matrices to assess the impact of ECM composition on the cell spreading response. Similar differences in cell morphology and connectivity were observed – cells remained separated on collagen but coalesced into clusters on fibrin. Cadherin was localized to junctions between interconnected cells, whereas fibronectin was present both between cells and at the tips of extending cell processes. Cells on fibrin matrices also developed more prominent stress fibers than those on collagen matrices. Importantly, these spreading and migration patterns were consistently observed on both rigid and compliant substrates, thus differences in ECM mechanical stiffness were not the underlying cause. Overall, these results demonstrate for the first time that ECM protein composition alone (collagen vs. fibrin) can induce a switch from individual to collective fibroblast spreading and migration in 3D culture. Similar processes may also influence cell behavior during wound healing, development, tumor invasion and repopulation of engineered tissues.
Project description:ROCK activity increases due to ECM rigidity in the tumor microenvironment and promotes a malignant phenotype via actomyosin contractility. Invasive migration is facilitated by actin-rich adhesive protrusions known as invadopodia that degrade the ECM. Invadopodia activity is dependent on matrix rigidity and contractile forces suggesting that mechanical factors may regulate these subcellular structures through ROCK-dependent actomyosin contractility. However, emerging evidence indicates that the ROCK1 and ROCK2 isoforms perform different functions in cells suggesting that alternative mechanisms may potentially regulate rigidity-dependent invadopodia activity. In this study, we found that matrix rigidity drives ROCK signaling in cancer cells but that ROCK1 and ROCK2 differentially regulate invadopodia activity through separate signaling pathways via contractile (NM II) and non-contractile (LIMK) mechanisms. These data suggest that the mechanical rigidity of the tumor microenvironment may drive ROCK signaling through distinct pathways to enhance the invasive migration required for cancer progression and metastasis.
Project description:During tumorigenesis, matrix rigidity can drive oncogenic transformation via altered cellular proliferation and migration. Cells sense extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanical properties with intracellular tensile forces generated by actomyosin contractility. These contractile forces are transmitted to the matrix surface as traction stresses, which mediate mechanical interactions with the ECM. Matrix rigidity has been shown to increase proteolytic ECM degradation by cytoskeletal structures known as invadopodia that are critical for cancer progression, suggesting that cellular contractility promotes invasive behavior. However, both increases and decreases in traction stresses have been associated with metastatic behavior. Therefore, the role of cellular contractility in invasive migration leading to metastasis is unclear. To determine the relationship between cellular traction stresses and invadopodia activity, we characterized the invasive and contractile properties of an aggressive carcinoma cell line utilizing polyacrylamide gels of different rigidities. We found that ECM degradation and traction stresses were linear functions of matrix rigidity. Using calyculin A to augment myosin contractility, we also found that traction stresses were strongly predictive of ECM degradation. Overall, our data suggest that cellular force generation may play an important part in invasion and metastasis by mediating invadopodia activity in response to the mechanical properties of the tumor microenvironment.
Project description:Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a malignant brain tumor characterized by diffuse infiltration of single cells into the brain parenchyma, which is a process that relies in part on aberrant biochemical and biophysical interactions between tumor cells and the brain extracellular matrix (ECM). A major obstacle to understanding ECM regulation of GBM invasion is the absence of model matrix systems that recapitulate the distinct composition and physical structure of brain ECM while allowing independent control of adhesive ligand density, mechanics, and microstructure. To address this need, we synthesized brain-mimetic ECMs based on hyaluronic acid (HA) with a range of stiffnesses that encompasses normal and tumorigenic brain tissue and functionalized these materials with short Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptides to facilitate cell adhesion. Scanning electron micrographs of the hydrogels revealed a dense, sheet-like microstructure with apparent nanoscale porosity similar to brain extracellular space. On flat hydrogel substrates, glioma cell spreading area and actin stress fiber assembly increased strongly with increasing density of RGD peptide. Increasing HA stiffness under constant RGD density produced similar trends and increased the speed of random motility. In a three-dimensional (3D) spheroid paradigm, glioma cells invaded HA hydrogels with morphological patterns distinct from those observed on flat surfaces or in 3D collagen-based ECMs but highly reminiscent of those seen in brain slices. This material system represents a brain-mimetic model ECM with tunable ligand density and stiffness amenable to investigations of the mechanobiological regulation of brain tumor progression.
Project description:Many cells are small and rounded on soft extracellular matrices (ECM), elongated on stiffer ECMs, and flattened on hard ECMs. Cells also migrate up stiffness gradients (durotaxis). Using a hybrid cellular Potts and finite-element model extended with ODE-based models of focal adhesion (FA) turnover, we show that the full range of cell shape and durotaxis can be explained in unison from dynamics of FAs, in contrast to previous mathematical models. In our 2D cell-shape model, FAs grow due to cell traction forces. Forces develop faster on stiff ECMs, causing FAs to stabilize and, consequently, cells to spread on stiff ECMs. If ECM stress further stabilizes FAs, cells elongate on substrates of intermediate stiffness. We show that durotaxis follows from the same set of assumptions. Our model contributes to the understanding of the basic responses of cells to ECM stiffness, paving the way for future modeling of more complex cell-ECM interactions.
Project description:Compliance and dimensionality mechanosensing, the processes by which cells sense the physical attributes of the extracellular matrix (ECM), are known to drive cell branching and shape change largely through a myosin-II-mediated reorganization of the actin and microtubule (MT) cytoskeletons. Subcellular regulation of MT dynamics is spatially controlled through a Rac1-Aurora-A kinase pathway that locally inhibits the MT depolymerizing activity of mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK), thereby promoting leading-edge MT growth and cell polarization. These results suggest that the regulation of MT growth dynamics is intimately linked to physical engagement of the cell with the ECM. Here, we tested the hypothesis that MCAK contributes to compliance and dimensionality mechanosensing-mediated regulation of MT growth dynamics through a myosin-II-dependent signaling pathway. We cultured endothelial cells (ECs) on collagen-coupled stiff or compliant polyacrylamide ECMs to examine the effects of MCAK expression on MT growth dynamics and EC branching morphology. Our results identify that MCAK promotes fast MT growth speeds in ECs cultured on compliant 2D ECMs but promotes slow MT growth speeds in ECs cultured on compliant 3D ECMs, and these effects are myosin-II dependent. Furthermore, we find that 3D ECM engagement uncouples MCAK-mediated regulation of MT growth persistence from myosin-II-mediated regulation of growth persistence specifically within EC branched protrusions.