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Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 1;65(13):5674-82.

Lack of telopeptides in fibrillar collagen I promotes the invasion of a metastatic breast tumor cell line.

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  • 1Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Defective fibrillar collagen polymerization in primary tumors has been correlated with increased metastasis. However, it is unclear how collagen organization influences tumor invasion. In this study, we show that collagen I polymerized without telopeptides (the flanking regions of collagen molecules) can differentially affect the three-dimensional migration of mammary carcinoma cells. MDA-MB-231 cells capable of proteolytic degradation and mesenchymal motion, invaded telopeptide-intact and telopeptide-free collagen gels to the same extent. In contrast, MDA-MB-435S cells, with typical features of amoeboid cells (poor collagenolytic activity, rounded cell morphology), were 5-fold more invasive in telopeptide-free than telopeptide-intact collagen. A fraction of the MDA-MB-435S cells that invaded telopeptide-intact or telopeptide-free collagen had a rounded morphology; however, in telopeptide-free collagen, a significant fraction of the cells switched from a rounded to elongated morphology (protrusion formation). The dynamic changes in cellular shape facilitated MDA-MB-435S locomotion through the narrow interfiber gaps, which were smaller than cell diameters. Based on the spherical morphology of MDA-MB-435S cells, we tested if the changes in cell shape and invasion were related to RhoA-ROCK activity; GTP-bound RhoA was measured in pull-down assays. RhoA activity was 1.8-fold higher for MDA-MB-435S cells seeded on telopeptide-free than telopeptide-intact collagen. Y27632 inhibition of ROCK, a Rho effector, significantly reduced the changes in cellular morphodynamics and the invasion of MDA-MB-435S cells but did not alter the invasion of MDA-MB-231 cells. Thus, the higher RhoA activity of MDA-MB-435S cells in telopeptide-free collagen enhances the changes in cellular morphodynamics associated with motility and invasion.

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