The receptor of epidermal growth factor (EGFR) critically regulates tumor cell invasion and is a potent therapeutic target for treatment of many types of cancers, including carcinomas and glioblastomas. It is known that EGF regulates cell motility when tumor cells are embedded within a 3D biomatrix. However, roles of EGF in modulating tumor cell motility phenotype are largely unknown. In this article, we report that EGF promotes a mesenchymal over an amoeboid motility phenotype using a malignant breast tumor cell line, MDA-MB-231, embedded within a 3D collagen matrix. Amoeboid cells are rounded in shape, while mesenchymal cells are elongated, and their migrations are governed by a distinctly different set of biomolecules. Using single cell tracking analysis, we also show that EGF promotes cell dissemination through a significant increase in cell persistence along with a moderate increase of speed. The increase of persistence is correlated with the increase of the percentage of the mesenchymal cells within the population. Our work reveals a novel role of microenvironmental cue, EGF, in modulating heterogeneity and plasticity of tumor cell motility phenotype. In addition, it suggests a potential visual cue for diagnosing invasive states of breast cancer cells. This work can be easily extended beyond breast cancer cells.
Geum, Dongil T., Beum Jun Kim, Audrey E. Chang, Matthew S. Hall, Mingming Wu
Eur. Phys. J. Plus