Collective and single cell behavior in epithelial contact inhibition.
ABSTRACT: Control of cell proliferation is a fundamental aspect of tissue physiology central to morphogenesis, wound healing, and cancer. Although many of the molecular genetic factors are now known, the system level regulation of growth is still poorly understood. A simple form of inhibition of cell proliferation is encountered in vitro in normally differentiating epithelial cell cultures and is known as "contact inhibition." The study presented here provides a quantitative characterization of contact inhibition dynamics on tissue-wide and single cell levels. Using long-term tracking of cultured Madin-Darby canine kidney cells we demonstrate that inhibition of cell division in a confluent monolayer follows inhibition of cell motility and sets in when mechanical constraint on local expansion causes divisions to reduce cell area. We quantify cell motility and cell cycle statistics in the low density confluent regime and their change across the transition to epithelial morphology which occurs with increasing cell density. We then study the dynamics of cell area distribution arising through reductive division, determine the average mitotic rate as a function of cell size, and demonstrate that complete arrest of mitosis occurs when cell area falls below a critical value. We also present a simple computational model of growth mechanics which captures all aspects of the observed behavior. Our measurements and analysis show that contact inhibition is a consequence of mechanical interaction and constraint rather than interfacial contact alone, and define quantitative phenotypes that can guide future studies of molecular mechanisms underlying contact inhibition.
Project description:Directed migration of groups of cells is a critical aspect of tissue morphogenesis that ensures proper tissue organization and, consequently, function. Cells moving in groups, unlike single cells, must coordinate their migratory behavior to maintain tissue integrity. During directed migration, cells are guided by a combination of mechanical and chemical cues presented by neighboring cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix. One important class of signals that guide cell migration includes topographic cues. Although the contact guidance response of individual cells to topographic cues has been extensively characterized, little is known about the response of groups of cells to topographic cues, the impact of such cues on cell-cell coordination within groups, and the transmission of nonautonomous contact guidance information between neighboring cells. Here, we explore these phenomena by quantifying the migratory response of confluent monolayers of epithelial and fibroblast cells to contact guidance cues provided by grooved topography. We show that, in both sparse clusters and confluent sheets, individual cells are contact-guided by grooves and show more coordinated behavior on grooved versus flat substrates. Furthermore, we demonstrate both in vitro and in silico that the guidance signal provided by a groove can propagate between neighboring cells in a confluent monolayer, and that the distance over which signal propagation occurs is not significantly influenced by the strength of cell-cell junctions but is an emergent property, similar to cellular streaming, triggered by mechanical exclusion interactions within the collective system.
Project description:The endothelial cells that form the lumen of capillaries and microvessels are an important component of the blood-brain barrier. Cell phenotype is regulated by transducing a range of biomechanical and biochemical signals in the local microenvironment. Here we report on the role of shear stress in modulating the morphology, motility, proliferation, apoptosis, and protein and gene expression, of confluent monolayers of human brain microvascular endothelial cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells.To assess the response of derived human brain microvascular endothelial cells (dhBMECs) to shear stress, confluent monolayers were formed in a microfluidic device. Monolayers were subjected to a shear stress of 4 or 12 dyne cm-2 for 40 h. Static conditions were used as the control. Live cell imaging was used to assess cell morphology, cell speed, persistence, and the rates of proliferation and apoptosis as a function of time. In addition, immunofluorescence imaging and protein and gene expression analysis of key markers of the blood-brain barrier were performed.Human brain microvascular endothelial cells exhibit a unique phenotype in response to shear stress compared to static conditions: (1) they do not elongate and align, (2) the rates of proliferation and apoptosis decrease significantly, (3) the mean displacement of individual cells within the monolayer over time is significantly decreased, (4) there is no cytoskeletal reorganization or formation of stress fibers within the cell, and (5) there is no change in expression levels of key blood-brain barrier markers.The characteristic response of dhBMECs to shear stress is significantly different from human and animal-derived endothelial cells from other tissues, suggesting that this unique phenotype that may be important in maintenance of the blood-brain barrier. The implications of this work are that: (1) in confluent monolayers of dhBMECs, tight junctions are formed under static conditions, (2) the formation of tight junctions decreases cell motility and prevents any morphological transitions, (3) flow serves to increase the contact area between cells, resulting in very low cell displacement in the monolayer, (4) since tight junctions are already formed under static conditions, increasing the contact area between cells does not cause upregulation in protein and gene expression of BBB markers, and (5) the increase in contact area induced by flow makes barrier function more robust.
Project description:Blebs are pressure-driven cell protrusions implicated in cellular functions such as cell division, apoptosis, and cell motility, including motility of protease-inhibited cancer cells. Because of their mechanical nature, blebs inform us about general cell-surface mechanics, including membrane dynamics, pressure propagation throughout the cytoplasm, and the architecture and dynamics of the actin cortex. Mathematical models including detailed fluid dynamics have previously been used to understand bleb expansion. Here, we develop mathematical models in two and three dimensions on longer timescales that recapitulate the full bleb life cycle, including both expansion and healing by cortex reformation, in terms of experimentally accessible biophysical parameters such as myosin contractility, osmotic pressure, and turnover of actin and ezrin. The model provides conditions under which blebbing occurs, and naturally gives rise to traveling blebs. The model predicts conditions under which blebs travel or remain stationary, as well as the bleb traveling velocity, a quantity that has remained elusive in previous models. As previous studies have used blebs as reporters of membrane tension and pressure dynamics within the cell, we have used our system to investigate various pressure equilibration models and dynamic, nonuniform membrane tension to account for the shape of a traveling bleb. We also find that traveling blebs tend to expand in all directions unless otherwise constrained. One possible constraint could be provided by spatial heterogeneity in, for example, adhesion density.
Project description:Collective cell migration occurs in a diversity of physiological processes such as wound healing, cancer metastasis, and embryonic morphogenesis. In the collective context, cohesive cells may move as a translational solid, swirl as a fluid, or even rotate like a disk, with scales ranging from several to dozens of cells. In this work, an active vertex model is presented to explore the regulatory roles of social interactions of neighboring cells and environmental confinements in collective cell migration in a confluent monolayer. It is found that the competition between two kinds of intercellular social interactions-local alignment and contact inhibition of locomotion-drives the cells to self-organize into various dynamic coherent structures with a spatial correlation scale. The interplay between this intrinsic length scale and the external confinement dictates the migration modes of collective cells confined in a finite space. We also show that the local alignment-contact inhibition of locomotion coordination can induce giant density fluctuations in a confluent cell monolayer without gaps, which triggers the spontaneous breaking of orientational symmetry and leads to phase separation.
Project description:Plasma membrane tension is responsible for a variety of cellular functions such as motility, cell division, and endocytosis. Since membrane tension is dominated by the attachment of the actin cortex to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane, we investigated the importance of ezrin, a major cross-linker of the membrane-cytoskeleton interface, for cellular mechanics of confluent MDCK II cells. For this purpose, we carried out ezrin depletion experiments and also enhanced the number of active ezrin molecules at the interface. Mechanical properties were assessed by force indentation experiments followed by membrane tether extraction. PIP2 micelles were injected into individual living cells to reinforce the linkage between plasma membrane and actin-cortex, while weakening of this connection was reached by ezrin siRNA and administration of the inhibitors neomycin and NSC 668394, respectively. We observed substantial stiffening of cells and an increase in membrane tension after addition of PIP2 micelles. In contrast, reduction of active ezrin led to a decrease of membrane tension accompanied by loss of excess surface area, increase in cortical tension, remodelling of actin cytoskeleton, and reduction of cell height. The data confirm the importance of the ezrin-mediated connection between plasma membrane and cortex for cellular mechanics and cell morphology.
Project description:Confluence-dependent inhibition of epithelial cell proliferation, termed contact inhibition, is crucial for epithelial homeostasis and organ size control. Here we report that among epithelial cells, keratinocytes, which compose the stratified epithelium in the skin, possess a unique, actomyosin-dependent mechanism for contact inhibition. We have observed that under actomyosin-inhibited conditions, cell-cell contact itself through E-cadherin promotes proliferation of keratinocytes. Actomyosin activity in confluent keratinocytes, however, inhibits nuclear localization of ?-catenin and YAP, and causes attenuation of ?-catenin- and YAP-driven cell proliferation. Confluent keratinocytes develop E-cadherin-mediated punctate adhesion complexes, to which radial actin cables are connected. Eliminating the actin-to-E-cadherin linkage by depleting ?-catenin increases proliferation of confluent keratinocytes. By contrast, enforced activation of RhoA-regulated actomyosin or external application of pulling force to ligated E-cadherin attenuates their proliferation, suggesting that tensile stress at E-cadherin-mediated adhesion complexes inhibits proliferation of confluent keratinocytes. Our results highlight actomyosin contractility as a crucial factor that provokes confluence-dependent inhibition of keratinocyte proliferation.
Project description:Contact-mediated inhibition of cell proliferation is an essential part of organ growth control; the transcription coactivator Yes-associated protein (YAP) plays a pivotal role in this process. In addition to phosphorylation-dependent regulation of YAP, the integral membrane protein angiomotin (AMOT) and AMOT family members control YAP through direct binding. Here we report that regulation of YAP activity occurs at the endosomal membrane through a dynamic interaction of AMOT with an endosomal integral membrane protein, endotubin (EDTB). EDTB interacts with both AMOT and occludin and preferentially associates with occludin in confluent cells but with AMOT family members in subconfluent cells. EDTB competes with YAP for binding to AMOT proteins in subconfluent cells. Overexpression of the cytoplasmic domain or full-length EDTB induces translocation of YAP to the nucleus, an overgrowth phenotype, and growth in soft agar. This increase in proliferation is dependent upon YAP activity and is complemented by overexpression of p130-AMOT. Furthermore, overexpression of EDTB inhibits the AMOT:YAP interaction. EDTB and AMOT have a greater association in subconfluent cells compared with confluent cells, and this association is regulated at the endosomal membrane. These data provide a link between the trafficking of tight junction proteins through endosomes and contact-inhibition-regulated cell growth.
Project description:Contact inhibition is a fundamental process in multicellular organisms aimed at inhibiting proliferation at high cellular densities through poorly characterized intracellular signals, despite availability of growth factors. We have previously identified the protein kinase p38alpha as a novel regulator of contact inhibition, as p38alpha is activated upon cell-cell contacts and p38alpha-deficient cells are impaired in both confluence-induced proliferation arrest and p27(Kip1) accumulation. Here, we establish that p27(Kip1) plays a key role downstream of p38alpha to arrest proliferation at high cellular densities. Surprisingly, p38alpha does not directly regulate p27(Kip1) expression levels but leads indirectly to confluent upregulation of p27(Kip1) and cell cycle arrest via the inhibition of mitogenic signals originating from the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Hence, confluent activation of p38alpha uncouples cell proliferation from mitogenic stimulation by inducing EGFR degradation through downregulation of the EGFR-stabilizing protein Sprouty2 (Spry2). Accordingly, confluent p38alpha-deficient cells fail to downregulate Spry2, providing them in turn with sustained EGFR signaling that facilitates cell overgrowth and oncogenic transformation. Our results provide novel mechanistic insight into the role of p38alpha as a sensor of cell density, which induces confluent cell cycle arrest via the Spry2-EGFR-p27(Kip1) network.
Project description:The polycomb group family protein BMI-1 is overexpressed by and functions as an oncogene in many different human cancers. We have previously shown that BMI-1 promotes the tumorigenicity of Ewing sarcoma family tumors (ESFTs) and that this is mediated independently of CDKN2A repression. In this study, we have discovered that high levels of BMI-1 confer resistance to contact inhibition in ESFT cells. Using stable retroviral transduction, we evaluated the consequences of BMI-1 knockdown on the growth of CDKN2A wild-type and mutant ESFT cells in subconfluent and confluent conditions. Although knockdown of BMI-1 had no effect on proliferation in low-density cultures, at high cell densities it resulted in cell cycle arrest and death. The normal cell contact inhibition response is mediated, in large part, by the recently described Hippo pathway which functions to inhibit cell proliferation and promote cell death by inactivating the Yes-Associated Protein (YAP). Significantly, we found that YAP levels, activity and expression did not diminish in confluent ESFT cells that expressed high levels of BMI-1. In contrast, YAP expression and nuclear localization were reduced in confluent BMI-1 knockdown cells suggesting that silencing of BMI-1 restored contact inhibition by restoring normal activation of the Hippo-YAP growth-suppressor pathway. Importantly, knockdown of YAP in ESFT cells resulted in profound inhibition of cell proliferation and anchorage-independent colony formation suggesting that stabilization and continued expression of YAP is critical for ESFT growth and tumorigenicity. Together, these studies reveal a previously unrecognized link between BMI-1, contact inhibition and the Hippo-YAP pathway and suggest that resistance to contact inhibition in BMI-1 overexpressing cancer cells may be in part a result of Hippo inhibition and aberrant stabilization of YAP.
Project description:Migration of cells is important for tissue maintenance, immune response, and often altered in disease. While biochemical aspects, including cell adhesion, have been studied in detail, much less is known about the role of the mechanical properties of cells. Previous measurement methods rely on contact with artificial surfaces, which can convolute the results. Here, we used a non-contact, microfluidic optical stretcher to study cell mechanics, isolated from other parameters, in the context of tissue infiltration by acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells, which occurs during differentiation therapy with retinoic acid. Compliance measurements of APL cells reveal a significant softening during differentiation, with the mechanical properties of differentiated cells resembling those of normal neutrophils. To interfere with the migratory ability acquired with the softening, differentiated APL cells were exposed to paclitaxel, which stabilizes microtubules. This treatment does not alter compliance but reduces cell relaxation after cessation of mechanical stress six-fold, congruent with a significant reduction of motility. Our observations imply that the dynamical remodeling of cell shape required for tissue infiltration can be frustrated by stiffening the microtubular system. This link between the cytoskeleton, cell mechanics, and motility suggests treatment options for pathologies relying on migration of cells, notably cancer metastasis.