Little is known about the extracellular signaling factors that govern mammary stem cell behavior. Here, we identify CRIPTO and its cell-surface receptor GRP78 as regulators of stem cell behavior in isolated fetal and adult mammary epithelial cells. We develop a CRIPTO antagonist that promotes differentiation and reduces self-renewal of mammary stem cell-enriched populations cultured ex vivo. By contrast, CRIPTO treatment maintains the stem cell phenotype in these cultures and yields colonies with enhanced mammary gland reconstitution capacity. Surface expression of GRP78 marks CRIPTO-responsive, stem cell-enriched fetal and adult mammary epithelial cells, and deletion of GRP78 from adult mammary epithelial cells blocks their mammary gland reconstitution potential. Together, these findings identify the CRIPTO/GRP78 pathway as a developmentally conserved regulator of fetal and adult mammary stem cell behavior ex vivo, with implications for the stem-like cells found in many cancers.
The cell cytoskeleton is composed of microtubules, intermediate filaments, and actin that provide a rigid support structure important for cell shape. However, it is also a dynamic signaling scaffold that receives and transmits complex mechanosensing stimuli that regulate normal physiological and aberrant pathophysiological processes. Studying cytoskeletal functions in the cytoskeletons native state is inherently difficult due to its rigid and insoluble nature. This has severely limited detailed proteomic analyses of the complex protein networks that regulate the cytoskeleton. Here, we describe a purification method that enriches for the cytoskeleton and its associated proteins in their native state that is also compatible with current mass spectrometry-based protein detection methods. This method can be used for biochemical, fluorescence, and large-scale proteomic analyses of numerous cell types. Using this approach, 2346 proteins were identified in the cytoskeletal fraction of purified mouse embryonic fibroblasts, of which 635 proteins were either known cytoskeleton proteins or cytoskeleton-interacting proteins. Functional annotation and network analyses using the Ingenuity Knowledge Database of the cytoskeletome revealed important nodes of interconnectivity surrounding well-established regulators of the actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion complexes. This improved cytoskeleton purification method will aid our understanding of how the cytoskeleton controls normal and diseased cell functions.
The cytoskeleton is fundamental to many cellular functions including cell proliferation, differentiation, adhesion, and migration. It is composed of actin, microtubules, intermediate filaments, and integrin cell surface receptors, which form focal adhesions with the extracellular matrix. These elements are highly integrated in the cell providing a rigid network of interconnected cables and protein scaffolds, which generate force and mechanical support to maintain cell shape and movement. However, the cytoskeleton is not just a simple compilation of static filaments that dictate cell adhesion and morphology-it is highly plastic with the inherent ability to assemble and disassemble in response to diverse and complex cellular cues. Thus, biochemical and proteomic methods are needed to better understand the cytoskeleton network and its dynamic signal transduction functions in health and disease. This chapter describes methods for the biochemical enrichment and mass spectrometry-based proteomic analyses of the cytoskeletome. We also detail how these methods can be used to investigate the cytoskeletome of migrating cells and their purified pseudopodia membrane projections.
Breast cancer and melanoma cells commonly metastasize to the brain using homing mechanisms that are poorly understood. Cancer patients with brain metastases display poor prognosis and survival due to the lack of effective therapeutics and treatment strategies. Recent work using intravital microscopy and preclinical animal models indicates that metastatic cells colonize the brain, specifically in close contact with the existing brain vasculature. However, it is not known how contact with the vascular niche promotes microtumor formation. Here, we investigate the role of connexins in mediating early events in brain colonization using transparent zebrafish and chicken embryo models of brain metastasis. We provide evidence that breast cancer and melanoma cells utilize connexin gap junction proteins (Cx43, Cx26) to initiate brain metastatic lesion formation in association with the vasculature. RNAi depletion of connexins or pharmacological blocking of connexin-mediated cell-cell communication with carbenoxolone inhibited brain colonization by blocking tumor cell extravasation and blood vessel co-option. Activation of the metastatic gene twist in breast cancer cells increased Cx43 protein expression and gap junction communication, leading to increased extravasation, blood vessel co-option and brain colonization. Conversely, inhibiting twist activity reduced Cx43-mediated gap junction coupling and brain colonization. Database analyses of patient histories revealed increased expression of Cx26 and Cx43 in primary melanoma and breast cancer tumors, respectively, which correlated with increased cancer recurrence and metastasis. Together, our data indicate that Cx43 and Cx26 mediate cancer cell metastasis to the brain and suggest that connexins might be exploited therapeutically to benefit cancer patients with metastatic disease.
Transforming Growth Factor--beta (TGF?) superfamily ligands, including Activins, Growth and Differentiation Factors (GDFs), and Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), are excellent targets for protein-based therapeutics because of their pervasiveness in numerous developmental and cellular processes. We developed a strategy termed RASCH (Random Assembly of Segmental Chimera and Heteromer), to engineer chemically-refoldable TGF? superfamily ligands with unique signaling properties. One of these engineered ligands, AB208, created from Activin-?A and BMP-2 sequences, exhibits the refolding characteristics of BMP-2 while possessing Activin-like signaling attributes. Further, we find several additional ligands, AB204, AB211, and AB215, which initiate the intracellular Smad1-mediated signaling pathways more strongly than BMP-2 but show no sensitivity to the natural BMP antagonist Noggin unlike natural BMP-2. In another design, incorporation of a short N-terminal segment from BMP-2 was sufficient to enable chemical refolding of BMP-9, without which was never produced nor refolded. Our studies show that the RASCH strategy enables us to expand the functional repertoire of TGF? superfamily ligands through development of novel chimeric TGF? ligands with diverse biological and clinical values.
Little is known about how metastatic cancer cells arrest in small capillaries and traverse the vascular wall during extravasation in vivo. Using real-time intravital imaging of human tumor cells transplanted into transparent zebrafish, we show here that extravasation of cancer cells is a highly dynamic process that involves the modulation of tumor cell adhesion to the endothelium and intravascular cell migration along the luminal surface of the vascular wall. Tumor cells do not damage or induce vascular leak at the site of extravasation, but rather induce local vessel remodeling characterized by clustering of endothelial cells and cell-cell junctions. Intravascular locomotion of tumor cells is independent of the direction of blood flow and requires beta1-integrin-mediated adhesion to the blood-vessel wall. Interestingly, the expression of the pro-metastatic gene Twist in tumor cells increases their intravascular migration and extravasation through the vessel wall. However, in this case, Twist expression causes the tumor cells to switch to a beta1-integrin-independent mode of extravasation that is associated with the formation of large dynamic rounded membrane protrusions. Our results demonstrate that extravasation of tumor cells is a highly dynamic process influenced by metastatic genes that target adhesion and intravascular migration of tumor cells, and induce endothelial remodeling.
Regulation of the actin-myosin cytoskeleton plays a central role in cell migration and cancer progression. Here, we report the discovery of a cytoskeleton-associated kinase, pseudopodium-enriched atypical kinase 1 (PEAK1). PEAK1 is a 190-kDa nonreceptor tyrosine kinase that localizes to actin filaments and focal adhesions. PEAK1 undergoes Src-induced tyrosine phosphorylation, regulates the p130Cas-Crk-paxillin and Erk signaling pathways, and operates downstream of integrin and epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) to control cell spreading, migration, and proliferation. Perturbation of PEAK1 levels in cancer cells alters anchorage-independent growth and tumor progression in mice. Notably, primary and metastatic samples from colon cancer patients display amplified PEAK1 levels in 81% of the cases. Our findings indicate that PEAK1 is an important cytoskeletal regulatory kinase and possible target for anticancer therapy.
Our current understanding of 3-dimensional (3D) cell migration is primarily based on results from fibrous scaffolds with randomly organized internal architecture. Manipulations that change the stiffness of these 3D scaffolds often alter other matrix parameters that can modulate cell motility independently or synergistically, making observations less predictive of how cells behave when migrating in 3D. In order to decouple microstructural influences and stiffness effects, we have designed and fabricated 3D polyethylene glycol (PEG) scaffolds that permit orthogonal tuning of both elastic moduli and microstructure. Scaffolds with log-pile architectures were used to compare the 3D migration properties of normal breast epithelial cells (HMLE) and Twist-transformed cells (HMLET). Our results indicate that the nature of cell migration is significantly impacted by the ability of cells to migrate in the third dimension. 2D ECM-coated PEG substrates revealed no statistically significant difference in cell migration between HMLE and HMLET cells among substrates of different stiffness. However, when cells were allowed to move along the third dimension, substantial differences were observed for cell displacement, velocity and path straightness parameters. Furthermore, these differences were sensitive to both substrate stiffness and the presence of the Twist oncogene. Importantly, these 3D modes of migration provide insight into the potential for oncogene-transformed cells to migrate within and colonize tissues of varying stiffness.
Early biomarkers and effective therapeutic strategies are desperately needed to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which has a dismal 5-year patient survival rate. Here, we report that the novel tyrosine kinase PEAK1 is upregulated in human malignancies, including human PDACs and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). Oncogenic KRas induced a PEAK1-dependent kinase amplification loop between Src, PEAK1, and ErbB2 to drive PDAC tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. Surprisingly, blockade of ErbB2 expression increased Src-dependent PEAK1 expression, PEAK1-dependent Src activation, and tumor growth in vivo, suggesting a mechanism for the observed resistance of patients with PDACs to therapeutic intervention. Importantly, PEAK1 inactivation sensitized PDAC cells to trastuzumab and gemcitabine therapy. Our findings, therefore, suggest that PEAK1 is a novel biomarker, critical signaling hub, and new therapeutic target in PDACs.
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