Sanjay Kumar’s lab has identified a mechanism used by tumor cells to adhere to and migrate through a nanoporous, three-dimensional extracellular matrix characteristic of brain tissue. In this mechanism, cells engage hyaluronic acid, a key component within the brain matrix, by assembling “microtentacles” that can extend tens of micrometers from the cell body and adhere to the matrix via the CD44 receptor.
They have also explained a molecular mechanism through which these structures can support motility based on the interplay of actin, microtubules, IQGAP1, and CLIP170. Analogous structures have previously been observed in circulating tumor cells and hypothesized to facilitate endothelial attachment and intravasation. Their studies strongly support this concept and further indicate that microtentacles can facilitate adhesion and invasion into tissue.
This research was published in PNAS, by first author Kayla Wolf, BioE graduate student.