Weakly migratory metastatic breast cancer cells activate fibroblasts via microvesicle-Tg2 to facilitate dissemination and metastasis

Elife. 2022 Dec 7;11:e74433. doi: 10.7554/eLife.74433.


Cancer cell migration is highly heterogeneous, and the migratory capability of cancer cells is thought to be an indicator of metastatic potential. It is becoming clear that a cancer cell does not have to be inherently migratory to metastasize, with weakly migratory cancer cells often found to be highly metastatic. However, the mechanism through which weakly migratory cells escape from the primary tumor remains unclear. Here, utilizing phenotypically sorted highly and weakly migratory human breast cancer cells, we demonstrate that weakly migratory metastatic cells disseminate from the primary tumor via communication with stromal cells. While highly migratory cells are capable of single cell migration, weakly migratory cells rely on cell-cell signaling with fibroblasts to escape the primary tumor. Weakly migratory cells release microvesicles rich in tissue transglutaminase 2 (Tg2) which activate murine fibroblasts and lead weakly migratory cancer cell migration in vitro. These microvesicles also induce tumor stiffening and fibroblast activation in vivo and enhance the metastasis of weakly migratory cells. Our results identify microvesicles and Tg2 as potential therapeutic targets for metastasis and reveal a novel aspect of the metastatic cascade in which weakly migratory cells release microvesicles which activate fibroblasts to enhance cancer cell dissemination.

Keywords: cancer biology; contractility; extracellular matrix; extracellular vesicle; human; migration; mouse; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Protein Glutamine gamma Glutamyltransferase 2


  • Protein Glutamine gamma Glutamyltransferase 2

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.4qrfj6qbd