ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202208.0242.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Cell & Developmental Biology Keywords: hydrogel; 3D-culture; Imaging; Cell-matrix; proteases; matrix metalloproteinases; actin polymerization; contractility
Online: 12 August 2022 (12:55:21 CEST)
Cancer invasion through basement membranes represents the initial step of tumor dissemination and metastasis. However, little is known about how human cancer cells breach basement membranes. Here, we used a 3-dimensional in vitro invasion model consisting of cancer spheroids encapsulated by a basement membrane and embedded in 3D collagen gels to visualize the early events of cancer invasion by confocal microscopy and live-cell imaging. Human breast cancer cells generated large numbers of basement membrane perforations, or holes, of varying sizes that expanded over time during cell invasion. We used a wide variety of small molecule inhibitors to probe the mechanisms of basement membrane perforation and hole expansion. Protease inhibitor treatment (BB94), led to a 63% decrease in perforation size. After myosin II inhibition (blebbistatin), basement membrane perforation area decreased by only 15%. These treatments produced correspondingly decreased cellular breaching events. Interestingly, inhibition of actin polymerization dramatically decreased basement membrane perforation by 80% and blocked invasion. Our findings suggest that human cancer cells can primarily use proteolysis and actin polymerization to perforate the BM and to expand perforations for basement membrane breaching, with a relatively small contribution from myosin II contractility.