Spatial and temporal dynamics of RhoA activities of single breast tumor cells in a 3D environment revealed by a machine learning-assisted FRET technique

Brian C.H. Cheung, Louis Hodgson, Jeffrey E. Segall, Mingming Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

One of the hallmarks of cancer cells is their exceptional ability to migrate within the extracellular matrix (ECM) for gaining access to the circulatory system, a critical step of cancer metastasis. RhoA, a small GTPase, is known to be a key molecular switch that toggles between actomyosin contractility and lamellipodial protrusion during cell migration. Current understanding of RhoA activity in cell migration has been largely derived from studies of cells plated on a two-dimensional (2D) substrate using a FRET biosensor. There has been increasing evidence that cells behave differently in a more physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) environment. However, studies of RhoA activities in 3D have been hindered by low signal-to-noise ratio in fluorescence imaging. In this paper, we present a a machine learning-assisted FRET technique to follow the spatiotemporal dynamics of RhoA activities of single breast tumor cells (MDA-MB-231) migrating in a 3D as well as a 2D environment. We found that RhoA activity is more polarized along the long axis of the cell for single cells migrating on 2D fibronectin-coated glass versus those embedded in 3D collagen matrices. In particular, RhoA activities of cells in 2D exhibit a distinct front-to-back and back-to-front movement during migration in contrast to those in 3D. Finally, regardless of dimensionality, RhoA polarization is found to be moderately correlated with cell shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112939
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Volume410
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 15 2022

Keywords

  • Cell migration
  • ECM
  • FRET
  • Motility
  • Polarization
  • RhoA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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