Biophysical phenotype mixtures reveal advantages for tumor muscle invasion in vivo

Kendra D. Marr, Jaime M.C. Gard, William L. Harryman, Elijah J. Keeswood, Allan I. Paxson, Charles William Wolgemuth, Beatrice S. Knudsen, Raymond B Nagle, Lori Hazlehurst, Maximiliano Sorbellini, Anne E. Cress

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bladder, colon, gastric, prostate, and uterine cancers originate in organs surrounded by laminin-coated smooth muscle. In human prostate cancer, tumors that are organ confined, without extracapsular extension through muscle, have an overall cancer survival rate of up to 97% compared with 32% for metastatic disease. Our previous work modeling extracapsular extension reported the blocking of tumor invasion by mutation of a laminin-binding integrin called α6β1. Expression of the α6AA mutant resulted in a biophysical switch from cell-ECM (extracellular matrix) to cell-cell adhesion with drug sensitivity properties and an inability to invade muscle. Here we used different admixtures of α6AA and α6WT cells to test the cell heterogeneity requirements for muscle invasion. Time-lapse video microscopy revealed that tumor mixtures self-assembled into invasive networks in vitro, whereas α6AA cells assembled only as cohesive clusters. Invasion of α6AA cells into and through live muscle occurred using a 1:1 mixture of α6AA and α6WT cells. Electric cell-substrate impedance sensing measurements revealed that compared with α6AA cells, invasion-competent α6WT cells were 2.5-fold faster at closing a cell-ECM or cell-cell wound, respectively. Cell-ECM rebuilding kinetics show that an increased response occurred in mixtures since the response was eightfold greater compared with populations containing only one cell type. A synthetic cell adhesion cyclic peptide called MTI-101 completely blocked electric cell-substrate impedance sensing cell-ECM wound recovery that persisted in vitro up to 20 h after the wound. Treatment of tumor-bearing animals with 10 mg/kg MTI-101 weekly resulted in a fourfold decrease of muscle invasion by tumor and a decrease of the depth of invasion into muscle comparable to the α6AA cells. Taken together, these data suggest that mixed biophysical phenotypes of tumor cells within a population can provide functional advantages for tumor invasion into and through muscle that can be potentially inhibited by a synthetic cell adhesion molecule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4194-4206
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 7 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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