Collective cell migration of thyroid carcinoma cells: a beneficial ability to override unfavourable substrates
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Tumor cell invasion and metastasis are life threatening events. Invasive tumor cells tend to migrate as collective sheets. In the present in vitro study we aimed to (i) assess whether collective tumor cells gain benefits in their migratory potential compared to single cells and (ii) to identify its putative underlying molecular mechanisms.
The migratory potential of single and collective carcinoma cells was assessed using video time lapse microscopy and cell migration assays in the absence and presence of seven potential gap junction inhibitors or the Rac1 inhibitor Z62954982. The perturbation of gap junctions was assessed using a dye diffusion assay. In addition, LDH-based cytotoxicity and RT-PCR-based expression analyses were performed.
Whereas single breast, cervix and thyroid carcinoma cells were virtually immobile on unfavourable plastic surfaces, we found that they gained pronounced migratory capacities as collectives under comparable conditions. Thyroid carcinoma cells, that were studied in more detail, were found to express specific subsets of connexins and to form active gap junctions as revealed by dye diffusion analysis. Although all potential gap junction blockers suppressed intercellular dye diffusion in at least one of the cell lines tested, only two of them were found to inhibit collective cell migration and none of them to inhibit single cell migration. In the presence of the Rac1 inhibitor Z62954982 collective migration, but not single cell migration, was found to be reduced up to 20 %.
Our data indicate that collective migration enables tumor cells to cross otherwise unfavourable substrate areas. This capacity seems to be independent of intercellular communication via gap junctions, whereas Rac1-dependent intracellular signalling seems to be essential.
KeywordsCollective cell migration Gap junction Rac Single cell migration Thyroid carcinoma
This research was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (STE 552/4, STE 552/5; to C.S.) and EU EraNet NEURON (Project BrIE; to C.S.).
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Conflict of interest
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