Substrate curvature induces fallopian tube epithelial cell invasion via cell-cell tension in a model of ovarian cortical inclusion cysts

Integr Biol (Camb). 2019 Nov 30;11(8):342-352. doi: 10.1093/intbio/zyz028.


Throughout the body, epithelial tissues contain curved features (e.g. cysts, ducts and crypts) that influence cell behaviors. These structures have varied curvature, with flat structures having zero curvature and structures such as crypts having large curvature. In the ovary, cortical inclusion cysts (CICs) of varying curvatures are found, and fallopian tube epithelial (FTE) cells have been found trapped within these cysts. FTE are the precursor for ovarian cancer, and the CIC niche has been proposed to play a role in ovarian cancer progression. We hypothesized that variations in ovarian CIC curvature that occur during cyst resolution impact the ability of trapped FTE cells to invade into the surrounding stroma. Using a lumen model in collagen gels, we determined that increased curvature resulted in more invasions of mouse FTE cells. To isolate curvature as a system parameter, we developed a novel technique to pattern concave curvatures into collagen gels. When FTE cells were seeded to confluency on curved substrates, increases in curvature increased the number of invading FTE cells and the invasion distance. FTE invasion into collagen substrates with higher curvature depended on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), but expression of collagen I degrading Mmps was not different on curved and flat regions. A finite-element model predicted that contractility and cell-cell connections were essential for increased invasion on substrates with higher curvature, while cell-substrate interactions had minimal effect. Experiments supported these predictions, with invasion decreased by blebbistatin, ethylene glycol-bis(β-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA) or N-cadherin-blocking antibody, but with no effect from a focal adhesion kinase inhibitor. Finally, experimental evidence supports that cell invasion on curved substrates occurs in two phases-a cell-cell-dependent initiation phase where individual cells break away from the monolayer and an MMP-dependent phase as cells migrate further into the collagen matrix.

Keywords: cell-cell adhesion; cellular mechanics; curvature; fallopian tube eptihelial cells; ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Communication
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Egtazic Acid / pharmacology
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Fallopian Tubes / metabolism
  • Fallopian Tubes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings / pharmacology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microfluidics
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Ovarian Cysts / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovary / pathology*
  • Phenotype


  • Cadherins
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings
  • blebbistatin
  • Egtazic Acid
  • Collagen
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases