Inhibition of metastatic outgrowth from single dormant tumor cells by targeting the cytoskeleton

Dalit Barkan, Hynda Kleinman, Justin L. Simmons, Holly Asmussen, Anil K. Kamaraju, Mark J. Hoenorhoff, Zi Yao Liu, Sylvain V. Costes, Edward H. Cho, Stephen Lockett, Chand Khanna, Ann F. Chambers, Jeffrey E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metastatic breast cancer may emerge from latent tumor cells that remain dormant at disseminated sites for many years. Identifying mechanisms regulating the switch from dormancy to proliferative metastatic growth has been elusive due to the lack of experimental models of tumor cell dormancy. We characterized the in vitro growth characteristics of cells that exhibit either dormant (D2.0R, MCF-7, and K7M2AS1.46) or proliferative (D2A1, MDA-MB-231, and K7M2) metastatic behavior in vivo. Although these cells proliferate readily in two-dimensional culture, we show that when grown in three-dimensional matrix, distinct growth properties of the cells were revealed that correlate to their dormant or proliferative behavior at metastatic sites in vivo. In three-dimensional culture, cells with dormant behavior in vivo remained cell cycle arrested with elevated nuclear expression of p16 and p27. The transition from quiescence to proliferation of D2A1 cells was dependent on fibronectin production and signaling through integrin β1, leading to cytoskeletal reorganization with filamentous actin (F-actin) stress fiber formation. We show that phosphorylation of myosin light chain (MLC) by MLC kinase (MLCK) through integrin β1 is required for actin stress fiber formation and proliferative growth. Inhibition of integrin β1 or MLCK prevents transition from a quiescent to proliferative state in vitro. Inhibition of MLCK significantly reduces metastatic outgrowth in vivo. These studies show that the switch from dormancy to metastatic growth may be regulated, in part, through epigenetic signaling from the microenvironment, leading to changes in the cytoskeletal architecture of dormant cells. Targeting this process may provide therapeutic strategies for inhibition of the dormant-to-proliferative metastatic switch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6241-6250
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Research
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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