MUC1 mediates transendothelial migration in vitro by ligating endothelial cell ICAM-1

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2005;22(6):475-83. doi: 10.1007/s10585-005-3098-x.


MUC1 is a transmembrane glycoprotein expressed by normal breast epithelium and virtually all breast cancers. MUC1 is normally restricted to the apical surface of epithelia and loss of this polarized distribution in breast carcinomas is associated with lymph node metastasis. Our previous work found that MUC1 can bind intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), mediating adhesion of breast cancer cells to a simulated blood vessel wall, and also triggering a calcium-based signal in the MUC1-bearing cells. It is possible that the depolarized membrane distribution of MUC1 in breast carcinomas may facilitate interactions with stromal/endothelial ICAM-1 leading to adhesion and subsequent migration through the vessel wall. In the current study, we provide evidence that ICAM-1 can influence the migration of cells that express endogenous or transfected MUC1. Migration across a gelatin-coated Transwell membrane could be increased in a step-wise manner by the sequential addition of ICAM-1-expressing cells (endothelial cells and fibroblasts), and ICAM-1-inducing inflammatory cytokines (tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1 beta). Antibodies against MUC1 or ICAM-1, but not a control antibody, could abrogate migratory increases. Cells that did not express MUC1 were unresponsive to ICAM-1. Our current findings build on our earlier work, by suggesting that the end result of the MUC1/ICAM-1-mediated cell-cell adhesion and calcium-based signal is migration. This has implications for the exit of circulating tumour cells from the vasculature, as well as tumour cell migration through fibroblast-containing stroma underlying the endothelial wall.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / pharmacology
  • Antigens / genetics
  • Antigens / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement* / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mucins / genetics
  • Mucins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Glycoproteins
  • Interleukin-1
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1