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J Invest Dermatol. 2008 Oct;128(10):2498-507. doi: 10.1038/jid.2008.102. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

E-cadherin suppression directs cytoskeletal rearrangement and intraepithelial tumor cell migration in 3D human skin equivalents.

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Division of Cancer Biology and Tissue Engineering, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, School of Dental Medicine Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


The link between loss of cell-cell adhesion, the activation of cell migration, and the behavior of intraepithelial (IE) tumor cells during the early stages of skin cancer progression is not well understood. The current study characterized the migratory behavior of a squamous cell carcinoma cell line (HaCaT-II-4) upon E-cadherin suppression in both 2D, monolayer cultures and within human skin equivalents that mimic premalignant disease. The migratory behavior of tumor cells was first analyzed in 3D tissue context by developing a model that mimics transepithelial tumor cell migration. We show that loss of cell adhesion enabled migration of single, IE tumor cells between normal keratinocytes as a prerequisite for stromal invasion. To further understand this migratory behavior, E-cadherin-deficient cells were analyzed in 2D, monolayer cultures and displayed altered cytoarchitecture and enhanced membrane protrusive activity that was associated with circumferential actin organization and induction of the nonmuscle, beta actin isoform. These features were associated with increased motility and random, individual cell migration in response to scrape-wounding. Thus, loss of E-cadherin-mediated adhesion led to the acquisition of phenotypic properties that augmented cell motility and directed the transition from the precancer to cancer in skin-like tissues.

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