Invadopodia are membrane protrusions dynamically assembled by invasive cancer cells in contact with the extracellular matrix (ECM). Invadopodia are enriched by the structural proteins actin and cortactin as well as metalloproteases such as MT1-MMP, whose function is to degrade the surrounding ECM. During metastasis, invadopodia are necessary for cancer cell intravasation and extravasation. Although signaling pathways involved in the assembly and function of invadopodia are well studied, few studies address invadopodia dynamics and how the cell-ECM interactions contribute to cell invasion. Using iterative analysis based on time-lapse microscopy and mathematical modeling of invasive cancer cells, we found that cells oscillate between invadopodia presence and cell stasis-termed the "invadopodia state"-and invadopodia absence during cell translocation-termed the "migration state." Our data suggest that β1-integrin-ECM binding and ECM cross-linking control the duration of each of the two states. By changing the concentration of cross-linkers in two-dimensional and three-dimensional cultures, we generate an ECM in which 0-0.92 of total lysine residues are cross-linked. Using an ECM with a range of cross-linking degrees, we demonstrate that the dynamics of invadopodia-related functions have a biphasic relationship to ECM cross-linking. At intermediate levels of ECM cross-linking (0.39), cells exhibit rapid invadopodia protrusion-retraction cycles and rapid calcium spikes, which lead to more frequent MT1-MMP delivery, causing maximal invadopodia-mediated ECM degradation. In contrast, both extremely high or low levels of cross-linking lead to slower invadopodia-related dynamics and lower ECM degradation. Additionally, β1-integrin inhibition modifies the dynamics of invadopodia-related functions as well as the length of time cells spend in either of the states. Collectively, these data suggest that β1-integrin-ECM binding nonlinearly translates small physical differences in the extracellular environment to differences in the dynamics of cancer cell behaviors. Understanding the conditions under which invadopodia can be reduced by subtle environment-targeting treatments may lead to combination therapies for preventing metastatic spread.
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