Computational estimates of mechanical constraints on cell migration through the extracellular matrix.
ABSTRACT: Cell migration through a three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrix (ECM) underlies important physiological phenomena and is based on a variety of mechanical strategies depending on the cell type and the properties of the ECM. By using computer simulations of the cell's mid-plane, we investigate two such migration mechanisms-'push-pull' (forming a finger-like protrusion, adhering to an ECM node, and pulling the cell body forward) and 'rear-squeezing' (pushing the cell body through the ECM by contracting the cell cortex and ECM at the cell rear). We present a computational model that accounts for both elastic deformation and forces of the ECM, an active cell cortex and nucleus, and for hydrodynamic forces and flow of the extracellular fluid, cytoplasm, and nucleoplasm. We find that relations between three mechanical parameters-the cortex's contractile force, nuclear elasticity, and ECM rigidity-determine the effectiveness of cell migration through the dense ECM. The cell can migrate persistently even if its cortical contraction cannot deform a near-rigid ECM, but then the contraction of the cortex has to be able to sufficiently deform the nucleus. The cell can also migrate even if it fails to deform a stiff nucleus, but then it has to be able to sufficiently deform the ECM. Simulation results show that nuclear stiffness limits the cell migration more than the ECM rigidity. Simulations show the rear-squeezing mechanism of motility results in more robust migration with larger cell displacements than those with the push-pull mechanism over a range of parameter values. Additionally, results show that the rear-squeezing mechanism is aided by hydrodynamics through a pressure gradient.
Project description:Epithelial cell migration is an essential part of embryogenesis and tissue regeneration, yet their migration is least understood. Using our three-dimensional (3D) motility analysis, migrating epithelial cells formed an atypical polarized cell shape with the nucleus leading the cell front and a contractile cell rear. Migrating epithelial cells exerted traction forces to deform both the anterior and posterior extracellular matrix toward the cell body. The cell leading edge exhibited a myosin II-dependent retrograde flow with the magnitude and direction consistent with surrounding network deformation. Interestingly, on a two-dimensional substrate, myosin IIA-deficient cells migrated faster than wild-type cells, but in a 3D gel, these myosin IIA-deficient cells were unpolarized and immobile. In contrast, the migration rates of myosin IIB-deficient cells were similar to wild-type cells. Therefore, myosin IIA, not myosin IIB, is required for 3D epithelial cell migration.
Project description:Cell migration toward areas of higher extracellular matrix (ECM) rigidity via a process called "durotaxis" is thought to contribute to development, immune response, and cancer metastasis. To understand how cells sample ECM rigidity to guide durotaxis, we characterized cell-generated forces on the nanoscale within single mature integrin-based focal adhesions (FAs). We found that individual FAs act autonomously, exhibiting either stable or dynamically fluctuating ("tugging") traction. We show that a FAK/phosphopaxillin/vinculin pathway is essential for high FA traction and to enable tugging FA traction over a broad range of ECM rigidities. We show that tugging FA traction is dispensable for FA maturation, chemotaxis, and haptotaxis but is critical to direct cell migration toward rigid ECM. We conclude that individual FAs dynamically sample rigidity by applying fluctuating pulling forces to the ECM to act as sensors to guide durotaxis, and that FAK/phosphopaxillin/vinculin signaling defines the rigidity range over which this dynamic sensing process operates.
Project description:During directed cell migration, the movement of the nucleus is coupled to the forward progression of the cell. The microtubule motor cytoplasmic dynein is required for both cell polarization and cell motility. Here, we investigate the mechanism by which dynein contributes to directed migration. Knockdown of dynein slows protrusion of the leading edge and causes defects in nuclear movements. The velocity of nuclear migration was decreased in dynein knockdown cells, and nuclei were mislocalized to the rear of motile cells. In control cells, we observed that wounding the monolayer stimulated a dramatic induction of nuclear rotations at the wound edge, reaching velocities up to 8.5 degrees/minute. These nuclear rotations were significantly inhibited in dynein knockdown cells. Surprisingly, centrosomes do not rotate in concert with the nucleus; instead, the centrosome remains stably positioned between the nucleus and the leading edge. Together, these results suggest that dynein contributes to migration in two ways: (1) maintaining centrosome centrality by tethering microtubule plus ends at the cortex; and (2) maintaining nuclear centrality by asserting force directly on the nucleus.
Project description: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:The importance of centrosome in directional cell migration has long been recognized. However, the conventional view that centrosome determines cell's front, based on its often-observed position in front of the nucleus, has been challenged by contradictory observations. Here we show that centrosome defines the rear instead of the front, using cells plated on micropatterned adhesive strips to facilitate directional migration. We found that centrosome is always located proximal to the future rear before polarity is established through symmetry breaking or reversed as the cell reaches a dead end. In addition, using microsurgery to alter the distance of centrosomes from cells' ends, we show that centrosomal proximity is predictive of the placement of the rear. Removal of centrosome impairs directional cell migration, whereas the removal of nucleus alone makes no difference in most cells. Computer modeling under the framework of a local-enhancement/global-inhibition mechanism further demonstrates that positioning of rear retraction, mediated by signals concentrated near the centrosome, recapitulates all the experimental observations. Our results resolve a long-standing controversy and explain how cells use centrosome and microtubules to maintain directional migration.
Project description:Cell migration within 3D interstitial microenvironments is sensitive to extracellular matrix (ECM) properties, but the mechanisms that regulate migration guidance by 3D matrix features remain unclear. To examine the mechanisms underlying the cell migration response to aligned ECM, which is prevalent at the tumor-stroma interface, we utilized time-lapse microscopy to compare the behavior of MDA-MB-231 breast adenocarcinoma cells within randomly organized and well-aligned 3D collagen ECM. We developed a novel experimental system in which cellular morphodynamics during initial 3D cell spreading served as a reductionist model for the complex process of matrix-directed 3D cell migration. Using this approach, we found that ECM alignment induced spatial anisotropy of cells' matrix probing by promoting protrusion frequency, persistence, and lengthening along the alignment axis and suppressing protrusion dynamics orthogonal to alignment. Preference for on-axis behaviors was dependent upon FAK and Rac1 signaling and translated across length and time scales such that cells within aligned ECM exhibited accelerated elongation, front-rear polarization, and migration relative to cells in random ECM. Together, these findings indicate that adhesive and protrusive signaling allow cells to respond to coordinated physical cues in the ECM, promoting migration efficiency and cell migration guidance by 3D matrix structure.
Project description:The nucleus is mechanically coupled to the three cytoskeletal elements in the cell via linkages maintained by the LINC complex (for Linker of Nucleoskeleton to Cyto-skeleton). It has been shown that mechanical forces from the extracellular matrix (ECM) can be transmitted through the cytoskeleton to the nuclear surface. Here we quantified nuclear shape in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts on polyacrylamide gels with a controlled degree of cross-linking. On soft substrates with a Young's modulus of 0.4 kPa, the nucleus appeared rounded in its vertical cross-section, while on stiff substrates (308 kPa), the nucleus appears more flattened. Over-expression of dominant negative Klarsicht ANC-1 Syne Homology (KASH) domains, which disrupts the LINC complex, eliminated the sensitivity of nuclear shape to substrate rigidity; myosin inhibition had similar effects. GFP-KASH4 over-expression altered the rigidity dependence of cell motility and cell spreading. Taken together, our results suggest that nuclear shape is modulated by substrate rigidity-induced changes in actomyosin tension, and that a mechanically integrated nucleus-cytoskeleton is required for rigidity sensing. These results are significant because they suggest that substrate rigidity can potentially control nuclear function and hence cell function.
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:Mechanical integration of the nucleus with the extracellular matrix (ECM) is established by linkage between the cytoskeleton and the nucleus. This integration is hypothesized to mediate sensing of ECM rigidity, but parsing the function of nucleus-cytoskeleton linkage from other mechanisms has remained a central challenge. Here we took advantage of the fact that the LINC (linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton) complex is a known molecular linker of the nucleus to the cytoskeleton, and asked how it regulates the sensitivity of genome-wide transcription to substratum rigidity. We show that gene mechanosensitivity is preserved after LINC disruption, but reversed in direction. Combined with myosin inhibition studies, we identify genes that depend on nuclear tension for their regulation. We also show that LINC disruption does not attenuate nuclear shape sensitivity to substrate rigidity. Our results show for the first time that the LINC complex facilitates mechano-regulation of expression across the genome.
Project description:Cell migration is essential during development, regeneration, homeostasis, and disease. Depending on the microenvironment, cells use different mechanisms to migrate. Yet, all modes of migration require the establishment of an intracellular front-rear polarity axis for directional movement. Although front-rear polarity can be easily identified in in vitro conditions, its assessment in vivo by live-imaging is challenging due to tissue complexity and lack of reliable markers. Here, we describe a novel and unique double fluorescent reporter mouse line to study front-rear cell polarity in living tissues, called GNrep. This mouse line simultaneously labels Golgi complexes and nuclei allowing the assignment of a nucleus-to-Golgi axis to each cell, which functions as a readout for cell front-rear polarity. As a proof-of-principle, we validated the efficiency of the GNrep line using an endothelial-specific Cre mouse line. We show that the GNrep labels the nucleus and the Golgi apparatus of endothelial cells with very high efficiency and high specificity. Importantly, the features of fluorescent intensity and localization for both mCherry and eGFP fluorescent intensity and localization allow automated segmentation and assignment of polarity vectors in complex tissues, making GNrep a great tool to study cell behavior in large-scale automated analyses. Altogether, the GNrep mouse line, in combination with different Cre recombinase lines, is a novel and unique tool to study of front-rear polarity in mice, both in fixed tissues or in intravital live imaging. This new line will be instrumental to understand cell migration and polarity in development, homeostasis, and disease.