Podosomes and invadopodia (collectively known as invadosomes) are specialized plasma-membrane actin-based microdomains that combine adhesive properties with matrix degrading and/or mechanosensor activities. These organelles have been extensively studied in vitro and current concerted efforts aim at establishing their physiological relevance and subsequent association with human diseases. Proper functioning of the bone, immune, and vascular systems is likely to depend on these structures while their occurrence in cancer cells appears to be linked to tumor metastasis. The elucidation of the mechanisms driving invadosome assembly is a prerequisite to understanding their role in vivo and ultimately to controlling their functions. Adhesive and soluble ligands act via transmembrane receptors that propagate signals to the cytoskeleton via small G proteins of the Rho family, assisted by tyrosine kinases and scaffold proteins to induce invadosome formation and rearrangements. Oncogene expression and cell-cell interactions may also trigger their assembly. Manipulation of the signals that regulate invadosome formation and dynamics could therefore be a strategy to interfere with their functions in a multitude of pathological settings, such as excessive bone breakdown, infections, vascular remodeling, transendothelial diapedesis, and metastasis.
Keywords: RhoGTPases; cytoskeleton; extracellular matrix; invadopodia; invadosomes; podosomes.