Research Summary: Microfabricated Physical Spatial Gradients for Investigating Cell Migration and Invasion Dynamics


We devise a novel assay that introduces micro-architectures into highly confining microchannels to probe the decision making processes of migrating cells. The conditions are meant to mimic the tight spaces in the physiological environment that cancer cells encounter during metastasis within the matrix dense stroma and during intravasation and extravasation through the vascular wall. In this study we use the assay to investigate the relative probabilities of a cell 1) permeating and 2) repolarizing (turning around) when it migrates into a spatially confining region. We observe the existence of both states even within a single cell line, indicating phenotypic heterogeneity in cell migration invasiveness and persistence. We also show that varying the spatial gradient of the taper can induce behavioral changes in cells, and different cell types respond differently to spatial changes. Particularly, for bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs), higher spatial gradients induce more cells to permeate (60%) than lower gradients (12%). Furthermore, highly metastatic breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) demonstrate a more invasive and permeative nature (87%) than non-metastatic breast epithelial cells (MCF-10A) (25%). We examine the migration dynamics of cells in the tapered region and derive characteristic constants that quantify this transition process. Our data indicate that cell response to physical spatial gradients is both cell-type specific and heterogeneous within a cell population, analogous to the behaviors reported to occur during tumor progression. Incorporation of micro-architectures in confined channels enables the probing of migration behaviors specific to defined geometries that mimic in vivo microenvironments.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 10-June-2011

Author(s): Mak M., Reinhart-King C., Erickson D.


Leave a Reply