Cellular and Molecular Biology


Cohort migration of carcinoma cells: Differentiated colorectal carcinoma cells move as coherent cell clusters or sheets

K. Nabeshima, T. Inoue, Y. Shimao, H. Kataoka and M. Koono

Department of Pathology, Miyazaki Medical College, Kihara, Kiyotake, Miyazaki, Japan

Offprint requests to: Dr. Kazuki Nabeshima, Department of Pathology, Miyazaki Medical College, 5200 Kihara, Kiyotake, Miyazaki 889-1692, Japan. e-mail: KAZNABES@post.miyazaki-med.ac.jp


Summary. Active migration of tumor cells is usually assessed as single cell locomotion in vitro using Boyden chamber-type assays. In vivo, however, carcinoma cells, malignant cells of epithelial origin, frequently invade the surrounding tissue as coherent clusters or nests of cells. We have called this type of movement "cohort migration". In our work, the invasion front of colon carcinomas consisted of compact tumor glands, partially resolved glands or markedly resolved glands with scattered tumor cell clusters or single cells lying ahead. In the former two types, which constituted about a half of all cases, cohort migration seems to be the predominant mechanism, whereas both cohort migration and single cell locomotion may be involved in the last one. In this light, it is very advantageous to investigate the mechanisms involved in the cohort migration.
In this review, we present a two-dimensional motility assay as a cohort migration model, in which human colorectal carcinoma cells move outwards from the cell islands mainly as localized coherent sheets of cells when stimulated with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) or hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF). Within the migrating cell sheets, wide intercellular gaps occur at the lower portion of the cells to allow the cells to extend leading lamellae forward while close cell-cell contacts remain at the upper portion of the cells. This localized modulation of cell-cell adhesion at the lower portion of the cells is associated with increased tyrosine phosphorylation of the E-cadherin-catenin complex in TPA-induced cohort migration and with reduced a-catenin complexed with E-cadherin in HGF/SF-induced cohort migration. Furthermore, fibronectin deposited by migrating cells is essential for their movement, and on the gelatin-coated substrate even degradation and remodeling of the substrate by matrix metalloproteinases are also needed. Thus, in cohort migration it is likely that cells are released from cell-cell adhesion only at the lower portion of the cells via modulation of E-cadherin-catenin-based mechanism, and this change allows the cells to extend leading lamellae onto the extracellular matrix substrate remodeled by deposition of fibronectin and organized digestion. Histol. Histopathol. 14, 1183-1197 (1999)

Key words: Carcinoma, Tumor invasion, Motility, E-cadherin-catenin complex, Fibronectin

DOI: 10.14670/HH-14.1183