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The ECM and tissue architecture are major determinants of early invasion mediated by E-cadherin dysfunction

Authors: Melo, S; Guerrero, P; Soares, MM; Bordin, JR; Carneiro, F; Carneiro, P; Dias, MB; Carvalho, J; Figueiredo, J; Seruca, R; Travasso, RDM

Ref.: Commun. Biol. 6 (1), 1132 (2023)

Abstract: Germline mutations of E-cadherin cause Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC), a highly invasive cancer syndrome characterised by the occurrence of diffuse-type gastric carcinoma and lobular breast cancer. In this disease, E-cadherin-defective cells are detected invading the adjacent stroma since very early stages. Although E-cadherin loss is well established as a triggering event, other determinants of the invasive process persist largely unknown. Herein, we develop an experimental strategy that comprises in vitro extrusion assays using E-cadherin mutants associated to HDGC, as well as mathematical models epitomising epithelial dynamics and its interaction with the extracellular matrix (ECM). In vitro, we verify that E-cadherin dysfunctional cells detach from the epithelial monolayer and extrude basally into the ECM. Through phase-field modelling we demonstrate that, aside from loss of cell-cell adhesion, increased ECM attachment further raises basal extrusion efficiency. Importantly, by combining phase-field and vertex model simulations, we show that the cylindrical structure of gastric glands strongly promotes the cell’s invasive ability. Moreover, we validate our findings using a dissipative particle dynamics simulation of epithelial extrusion. Overall, we provide the first evidence that cancer cell invasion is the outcome of defective cell-cell linkages, abnormal interplay with the ECM, and a favourable 3D tissue structure.

DOI: 10.1038/s42003-023-05482-x