During cancer progression the extracellular matrix is remodeled, forming aligned collagen fibers that proceed radially from the tumor, resulting in invasion. We have recently shown that different invasive breast cancer cells respond to epitaxially grown, aligned collagen fibrils differently. This article develops insight into why these cells differ in their contact guidance fidelity. Small changes in contractility or adhesion dramatically alter directional persistence on aligned collagen fibrils, while migration speed remains constant. The directionality of highly contractile and adhesive MDA-MB-231 cells can be diminished by inhibiting Rho kinase or β1 integrin binding. Inversely, the directionality of less contractile and adhesive MTLn3 cells can be enhanced by activating contractility or integrins. Subtle, but quantifiable alterations in myosin II regulatory light chain phosphorylation on stress fibers explain the tuning of contact guidance fidelity, separate from migration per se indicating that the contractile and adhesive state of the cell in combination with collagen organization in the tumor microenvironment determine the efficiency of migration. Understanding how distinct cells respond to contact guidance cues will not only illuminate mechanisms for cancer invasion, but will also allow for the design of environments to separate specific subpopulations of cells from patient-derived tissues by leveraging differences in responses to directional migration cues.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ian_schneider/17/