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Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:2436-9. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6346456.

Roles of bioactive sphingolipid metabolites in ovarian cancer cell biomechanics.

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  • 1VT MEMS Lab, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA.


Bioactive sphingolipid metabolites have emerged as important lipid second messengers in the regulation of cell growth, death, motility and many other events. These processes are important in cancer development and progression; thus, sphingolipid metabolites have been implicated in both cancer development and cancer prevention. Despite recent considerable progress in understanding the multi-faceted functions of these bioactive metabolites, little is known about their influence on the biomechanical property of cells. The biomechanical properties of cancer cells change during progression with aggressive and invasive cells being softer compared to their benign counterparts. In this paper, we investigated the effects of exogenous sphingolipid metabolites on the Young's modulus and cytoskeletal organization of cells representing aggressive ovarian cancer. Our findings demonstrate that the elasticity of aggressive ovarian cancer cells decreased ∼15% after treatment with ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate. In contrast, sphingosine treatment caused a ∼30% increase in the average elasticity which was associated with a more defined actin cytoskeleton organization. This indicates that sphingolipid metabolites differentially modulate the biomechanic properties of cancer cells which may have a critical impact on cancer cell survival and progression, and the use of sphingolipid metabolites as chemopreventive or chemo-therapeutic agents.

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