Signaling between protein, growth factor is critical for coordinated cell migration

November 10, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY--The mysterious process that orchestrates cells to move in unison to form human and animal embryos, heal wounds, and even spread cancer depends on interaction between two well-known genetic signaling pathways, two University of Utah medical school researchers have discovered.

The study by Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy, and doctoral student Andy Aman sheds new light on how the migration of groups of cells is coordinated and is the first to show a functional link between the Wnt and Fgf growth factor signaling pathways in a live animal model (zebrafish). The findings may give clues to how cancer metastasizes or spreads when cancerous cells move to different areas of the body.

Cell migration, though central to the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms, is not well understood, particularly in vivo or in live models. Researchers already knew the Wnt pathway has a role in embryogenesis and cancer by regulating cell-to-cell communication and that the Fgf pathway influences embryogenesis, wound healing, and cell proliferation. But Piotrowski's and Aman's study, published in the Nov. 11 issue of Developmental Cell, is the first to demonstrate that interaction between the two pathways is critical for proper collective cell migration.

"We looked at the question of how cells in the tip and the tail of a group of migrating cells communicate so that they move in a coordinated fashion," said Piotrowski, the paper's senior author.

To identify which genes are involved in collective cell migration, Piotrowski and Aman studied a group of migrating cells, called the lateral line primordium. During development the lateral line primordium migrates from the zebrafish head to the tail tip, periodically depositing sensory organs. The lateral line sensory system helps zebrafish and other aquatic vertebrates sense water movement.

Aman and Piotrowski discovered that both Wnt and Fgf pathway genes are activated. But for proper migration, a cellular division of labor must take place: the Wnt pathway must be restricted to the primordium's tip and the Fgf pathway must be confined to the tail. If the Wnt pathway is not restricted to cells in the tip, a cellular receptor that normally senses guidance cues is turned off and primordium cells stall and tumble randomly instead of migrating directionally, according to the researchers.

To accomplish this division of labor, each pathway stimulates the production of molecular inhibitors that restrict Wnt and Fgf pathway signaling to the tip and tail, respectively. When the Fgf pathway is activated, inhibitors are produced that restrict Wnt pathway signaling to the primordium tip. Conversely, when the Wnt pathway is activated, inhibitors are produced that restrict the Fgf pathway to the tail, the researchers reported.

"Cells use many diverse molecules to communicate with one another and coordinate their behaviors," Piotrowski said. "This work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how these diverse signaling molecules interact in intact animals and may provide insights into how defects in these interactions might lead to the progression of human disease."

While understanding the signaling between the Wnt and Fgf pathways can inform researchers about cell migration during development or in the adult, it also has the potential to help them learn more about how some types of cancer spread, according to Piotrowski.

Breast and prostate cancer both invade tissue in groups of cells, for example, and several studies by other researchers indicate groups of cancer cells, like the zebrafish primordium, might be separated into compartments by the Wnt and Fgf pathways. Interestingly, a gene mutation found in 80 percent of colon cancer cases causes Wnt pathway activation in too many cells, raising the question whether defective cell migration is a cause in tumor development.

Thus, by learning more about how cells migrate during normal development, researchers can gain insight into the molecular mechanisms that contribute to metastasis and tumor development of breast and colon cancer.

"The same genes involved in lateral line cell migration can cause aberrant migration in cancer cells," Piotrowski said. "By understanding how lateral line cells migrate, we possibly can understand which genes are not properly regulated when cancer spreads."
-end-


University of Utah Health Sciences

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.