Discovery of a new mechanism involved in the migration of cancer cells

June 23, 2017, Comprehensive Cancer Centre Gustave Roussy

A team of young French researchers has discovered a new mechanism which facilitates cell migration. On the surface of its membrane, the cell develops multiple small hooks which help it to attach to fibers outside the cell and move along them. This action helps us to understand better how a cell escapes from the tumor mass and moves around the body to form a new focus.

Supervised by Guillaume Montagnac, Inserm research leader at Gustave Roussy, in collaboration with the Institut Curie and the Institut de Myologie (Myology Institute), this research, is published in the 16th June issue of the American journal Science.

Cell migration is a normal process which is essential to life. In oncology it is involved in the formation of new metastases.

"Up till the present, we knew that the cell relied on certain structures to anchor itself within its environment. We have now identified new cell structures known as 'clathrin-coated pits', already known to be important for other cell functions. The cancer cell uses them as hooks to attach to other structures in order to move around, These novel structures underlie some 50% of cell adhesion to surrounding structures," declared Guillaume Montagnac, Leader of the ATIP-Avenir team, attached to Inserm Unit 1170, "Normal and abnormal haematopoiesis", at Gustave Roussy.

Recognised in 1964, these clathrin pits are small invaginations of the cell membrane which allow it to renew itself or to help molecules to enter the . The cell uses them particularly to supply itself with nutritional material (iron, cholesterol, etc.).

Using fluorescence methods, the researchers succeeded in demonstrating with an aggressive human breast cancer line, known for its marked propensity to metastasise, that the clathrin pits adhere to collagen fibres and surround them. The pit squeezes the fibre, so strengthening its hold and allowing it to move.

"Our Gustave Roussy team is one of the few with an interest in cell membrane dynamics when the cell is placed in 3D matrices under conditions close to normal ones. By studying these clathrin pits in 3D we were able to see the phenomenon when we were not expecting it," concluded Guillaume Montagnac.

A breast cancer cell with actin (engine of migration) in red, the clathrin pits (cell hooks) in green and collagen fibers in blue. Credit: Guillaume Montagnac / Gustave Roussy / Inserm

Explore further: Unexpected player in regulation of blood cholesterol levels

More information: Tubular clathrin/AP-2 lattices pinch collagen fibers to support 3D cell migration, Science (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aal4713 , http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6343/eaal4713

Related Stories

Unexpected player in regulation of blood cholesterol levels

January 27, 2014

Kinesins are motor proteins that "walk" along microtubules and transport various cargoes throughout the cell. A study in The Journal of Cell Biology uncovers an unexpected role for one kinesin in the pathway that regulates ...

Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle

June 19, 2015

Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have solved a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades – how does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function?

How proteins reshape cell membranes

February 24, 2017

Small "bubbles" frequently form on membranes of cells and are taken up into their interior. The process involves EHD proteins - a focus of research by Prof. Oliver Daumke of the MDC. He and his team have now shed light on ...

Recommended for you

The Trojan horse of Staphylococcus aureus

November 21, 2018

Staphylococcus aureus causes different types of infections in humans, some of which are lethal. One of its most powerful weapons is α-toxin, which destroys host cells by forming pores in their membranes. Researchers at the ...

Tropical tree mortality—new study reveals why trees die

November 21, 2018

A study by scientists at UNSW Sydney, Macquarie University, data61 and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has shown why some tropical tree species die and others survive, revealing new insights into the processes ...

Scientists study puncture performance of cactus spines

November 20, 2018

Beware the jumping cholla, Cylindropuntia fulgida. This shrubby, branching cactus will—if provoked by touching—anchor its splayed spines in the flesh of the offender. The barbed spines grip so tightly that a segment of ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.