Assessing metastatic potential of breast cancer cells based on EGFR dynamics


Derailed transmembrane receptor trafficking could be a hallmark of tumorigenesis and increased tumor invasiveness, but receptor dynamics have not been used to differentiate metastatic cancer cells from less invasive ones. Using single-particle tracking techniques, we developed a phenotyping assay named Transmembrane Receptor Dynamics (TReD), studied the dynamics of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in seven breast epithelial cell lines and developed a phenotyping assay named Transmembrane Receptor Dynamics (TReD). Here we show a clear evidence that increased EGFR diffusivity and enlarged EGFR confinement size in the plasma membrane (PM) are correlated with the enhanced metastatic potential in these cell lines. By comparing the TReD results with the gene expression profiles, we found a clear negative correlation between the EGFR diffusivities and the breast cancer luminal differentiation scores (r=−0.75). Upon the induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), EGFR diffusivity significantly increased for the non-tumorigenic MCF10A (99%) and the non-invasive MCF7 (56%) cells, but not for the highly metastatic MDA-MB-231 cell. We believe that the reorganization of actin filaments during EMT modified the PM structures, causing the receptor dynamics to change. TReD can thus serve as a new biophysical marker to probe the metastatic potential of cancer cells and even to monitor the transition of metastasis.

Journal article
Scientific Reports