Defective filopodia formation is linked to pathologies such as cancer, wherein actively protruding filopodia, at the invasive front, accompany cancer cell dissemination. Despite wide biological significance, delineating filopodia function in complex systems remains challenging and is particularly hindered by lack of compatible methods to quantify filopodia properties. Here, we present FiloQuant, a freely available ImageJ plugin, to detect filopodia-like protrusions in both fixed- and live-cell microscopy data. We demonstrate that FiloQuant can extract quantifiable information, including protrusion dynamics, density, and length, from multiple cell types and in a range of microenvironments. In cellular models of breast ductal carcinoma in situ, we reveal a link between filopodia formation at the cell-matrix interface, in collectively invading cells and 3D tumor spheroids, and the in vitro invasive capacity of the carcinoma. Finally, using intravital microscopy, we observe that tumor spheroids display filopodia in vivo, supporting a potential role for these protrusions during tumorigenesis.
© 2017 Jacquemet et al.