Cancer metastasis, the process of cancer cell migration from a primary to distal location, typically leads to a poor patient prognosis. Hematogenous metastasis is initiated by intravasation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) into the bloodstream, which are then believed to adhere to the luminal surface of the endothelium and extravasate into distal locations. Apoptotic agents such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), whether in soluble ligand form or expressed on the surface of natural killer (NK) cells, have shown promise in treating CTCs to reduce the probability of metastasis. The role of hemodynamic shear forces in altering the cancer cell response to receptor-mediated apoptosis has not been previously investigated. Here, we report that human colon cancer COLO 205 and prostate cancer PC-3 cells exposed to a uniform fluid shear stress in a cone-and-plate viscometer become sensitized to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Shear-induced sensitization directly correlated with the application of fluid shear stress, and TRAIL-induced apoptosis increased in a fluid shear stress force- and time-dependent manner. In contrast, TRAIL-induced necrosis was not affected by the application fluid shear stress. Interestingly, fluid shear stress did not sensitize cancer cells to apoptosis when treated with doxorubicin, which also induces apoptosis in cancer cells. Caspase inhibition experiments revealed that shear stress-induced sensitization to TRAIL occurs via caspase-dependent apoptosis. These results suggest that physiological fluid shear force can modulate receptor-mediated apoptosis of cancer cells in the presence of apoptotic agents.
Keywords: TRAIL; cancer; caspase; death receptors; mechanotransduction; shear stress.