Unjamming and collective migration in MCF10A breast cancer cell lines

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2020 Jan 15;521(3):706-715. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2019.10.188. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


Each cell comprising an intact, healthy, confluent epithelial layer ordinarily remains sedentary, firmly adherent to and caged by its neighbors, and thus defines an elemental constituent of a solid-like cellular collective [1,2]. After malignant transformation, however, the cellular collective can become fluid-like and migratory, as evidenced by collective motions that arise in characteristic swirls, strands, ducts, sheets, or clusters [3,4]. To transition from a solid-like to a fluid-like phase and thereafter to migrate collectively, it has been recently argued that cells comprising the disordered but confluent epithelial collective can undergo changes of cell shape so as to overcome geometric constraints attributable to the newly discovered phenomenon of cell jamming and the associated unjamming transition (UJT) [1,2,5-9]. Relevance of the jamming concept to carcinoma cells lines of graded degrees of invasive potential has never been investigated, however. Using classical in vitro cultures of six breast cancer model systems, here we investigate structural and dynamical signatures of cell jamming, and the relationship between them [1,2,10,11]. In order of roughly increasing invasive potential as previously reported, model systems examined included MCF10A, MCF10A.Vector; MCF10A.14-3-3ζ; MCF10.ErbB2, MCF10AT; and MCF10CA1a [12-15]. Migratory speed depended on the particular cell line. Unsurprisingly, for example, the MCF10CA1a cell line exhibited much faster migratory speed relative to the others. But unexpectedly, across different cell lines higher speeds were associated with enhanced size of cooperative cell packs in a manner reminiscent of a peloton [9]. Nevertheless, within each of the cell lines evaluated, cell shape and shape variability from cell-to-cell conformed with predicted structural signatures of cell layer unjamming [1]. Moreover, both structure and migratory dynamics were compatible with previous theoretical descriptions of the cell jamming mechanism [2,10,11,16,17]. As such, these findings demonstrate the richness of the cell jamming mechanism, which is now seen to apply across these cancer cell lines but remains poorly understood.

Keywords: Breast carcinoma; Cell shape; Collective migration; Cooperativity; Unjamming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Shape
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*