Cell-Cell Mechanical Communication in Cancer

Cell Mol Bioeng. 2019 Feb;12(1):1-14. doi: 10.1007/s12195-018-00564-x. Epub 2018 Dec 7.


Communication between cancer cells enables cancer progression and metastasis. While cell-cell communication in cancer has primarily been examined through chemical mechanisms, recent evidence suggests that mechanical communication through cell-cell junctions and cell-ECM linkages is also an important mediator of cancer progression. Cancer and stromal cells remodel the ECM through a variety of mechanisms, including matrix degradation, cross-linking, deposition, and physical remodeling. Cancer cells sense these mechanical environmental changes through cell-matrix adhesion complexes and subsequently alter their tension between both neighboring cells and the surrounding matrix, thereby altering the force landscape within the microenvironment. This communication not only allows cancer cells to communicate with each other, but allows stromal cells to communicate with cancer cells through matrix remodeling. Here, we review the mechanisms of intercellular force transmission, the subsequent matrix remodeling, and the implications of this mechanical communication on cancer progression.

Keywords: Mechanotransduction; cell mechanics; extracellular matrix; intercellular force; mechanosensing.