Tumor cell-driven extracellular matrix remodeling enables haptotaxis during metastatic progression

Fibronectin (FN) is a major component of the tumor microenvironment, but its role in promoting metastasis is incompletely understood. Here, we show that FN gradients elicit directional movement of breast cancer cells, in vitro and in vivo Haptotaxis on FN gradients requires direct interaction between ?5?1 integrin and MENA, an actin regulator, and involves increases in focal complex signaling and tumor cell-mediated extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. Compared with MENA, higher levels of the prometastatic MENA(INV) isoform associate with ?5, which enables 3-D haptotaxis of tumor cells toward the high FN concentrations typically present in perivascular space and in the periphery of breast tumor tissue. MENA(INV) and FN levels were correlated in two breast cancer cohorts, and high levels of MENA(INV) were significantly associated with increased tumor recurrence as well as decreased patient survival. Our results identify a novel tumor cell-intrinsic mechanism that promotes metastasis through ECM remodeling and ECM-guided directional migration. Significance: Here, we provide new insight into how tumor cell:ECM interactions generate signals and structures that promote directed tumor cell migration, a critical component of metastasis. Our results identify a tumor cell-intrinsic mechanism driven by the actin regulatory protein MENA that promotes ECM remodeling and haptotaxis along FN gradients.

Cancer Discovery (2016) DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-1183