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Eur Biophys J. 2009 Oct;38(8):1115-25. doi: 10.1007/s00249-009-0516-z. Epub 2009 Jul 18.

Fractal analysis and ionic dependence of endocytotic membrane activity of human breast cancer cells.

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Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience Solutions to Cancer Research Group, Imperial College London, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


The endocytic membrane activities of two human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7) of strong and weak metastatic potential, respectively, were studied in a comparative approach. Uptake of horseradish peroxidase was used to follow endocytosis. Dependence on ionic conditions and voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) activity were characterized. Fractal methods were used to analyze quantitative differences in vesicular patterning. Digital quantification showed that MDA-MB-231 cells took up more tracer (i.e., were more endocytic) than MCF-7 cells. For the former, uptake was totally dependent on extracellular Na(+) and partially dependent on extracellular and intracellular Ca(2+) and protein kinase activity. Analyzing the generalized fractal dimension (D(q )) and its Legendre transform f(alpha) revealed that under control conditions, all multifractal parameters determined had values greater for MDA-MB-231 compared with MCF-7 cells, consistent with endocytic/vesicular activity being more developed in the strongly metastatic cells. All fractal parameters studied were sensitive to the VGSC blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX). Some of the parameters had a "simple" dependence on VGSC activity, if present, whereby pretreatment with TTX reduced the values for the MDA-MB-231 cells and eliminated the differences between the two cell lines. For other parameters, however, there was a "complex" dependence on VGSC activity. The possible physical/physiological meaning of the mathematical parameters studied and the nature of involvement of VGSC activity in control of endocytosis/secretion are discussed.

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