The molecular mechanisms of transition between mesenchymal and amoeboid invasiveness in tumor cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Jan;67(1):63-71. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0132-1. Epub 2009 Aug 26.


Tumor cells exhibit at least two distinct modes of migration when invading the 3D environment. A single tumor cell's invasive strategy follows either mesenchymal or amoeboid patterns. Certain cell types can use both modes of invasiveness and undergo transitions between them. This work outlines the signaling pathways involved in mesenchymal and amoeboid types of tumor cell motility and summarizes the molecular mechanisms that are involved in transitions between them. The focus is on the signaling of the Rho family of small GTPases that regulate the cytoskeleton-dependent processes taking place during the cell migration. The multiple interactions among the Rho family of proteins, their regulators and effectors are thought to be the key determinants of the particular type of invasiveness. Mesenchymal and amoeboid invasive strategies display different adhesive and proteolytical interactions with the surrounding matrix and the alterations influencing these interactions can also lead to the transitions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Signal Transduction
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins