• Lipid tethering of breast tumor cells reduces cell aggregation during mammosphere formation.

      Bhandary, Lekhana; Bailey, Patrick C; Chang, Katarina T; Underwood, Karen F; Lee, Cornell J; Whipple, Rebecca A; Jewell, Christopher M; Ory, Eleanor; Thompson, Keyata N; Ju, Julia A; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-02-05)
      Mammosphere assays are widely used in vitro to identify prospective cancer-initiating stem cells that can propagate clonally to form spheres in free-floating conditions. However, the traditional mammosphere assay inevitably introduces cell aggregation that interferes with the measurement of true mammosphere forming efficiency. We developed a method to reduce tumor cell aggregation and increase the probability that the observed mammospheres formed are clonal in origin. Tethering individual tumor cells to lipid anchors prevents cell drift while maintaining free-floating characteristics. This enables real-time monitoring of single tumor cells as they divide to form mammospheres. Monitoring tethered breast cancer cells provided detailed size information that correlates directly to previously published single cell tracking data. We observed that 71% of the Day 7 spheres in lipid-coated wells were between 50 and 150 μm compared to only 37% in traditional low attachment plates. When an equal mixture of MCF7-GFP and MCF7-mCherry cells were seeded, 65% of the mammospheres in lipid-coated wells demonstrated single color expression whereas only 32% were single-colored in low attachment wells. These results indicate that using lipid tethering for mammosphere growth assays can reduce the confounding factor of cell aggregation and increase the formation of clonal mammospheres. © 2021, The Author(s).
    • Mechanoactivation of NOX2-generated ROS elicits persistent TRPM8 Ca signals that are inhibited by oncogenic KRas

      Pratt, Stephen J P; Lee, Rachel M; Chang, Katarina T; Hernández-Ochoa, Erick O; Annis, David A; Ory, Eleanor C; Thompson, Keyata N; Bailey, Patrick C; Mathias, Trevor J; Ju, Julia A; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2020-10-05)
      Changes in the mechanical microenvironment and mechanical signals are observed during tumor progression, malignant transformation, andmetastasis. In this context, understanding themolecular details of mechanotransduction signaling may provide unique therapeutic targets. Here, we report that normal breast epithelial cells are mechanically sensitive, responding to transient mechanical stimuli through a two-part calcium signaling mechanism. We observed an immediate, robust rise in intracellular calcium (within seconds) followed by a persistent extracellular calcium influx (up to 30 min). This persistent calcium was sustained via microtubule-dependent mechanoactivation of NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2)-generated reactive oxygen species (ROS), which acted on transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 8 (TRPM8) channels to prolong calcium signaling. In contrast, the introduction of a constitutively active oncogenic KRas mutation inhibited the magnitude of initial calcium signaling and severely blunted persistent calcium influx. The identification that oncogenic KRas suppresses mechanically-induced calcium at the level of ROS provides a mechanism for how KRas could alter cell responses to tumor microenvironment mechanics and may reveal chemotherapeutic targets for cancer. Moreover, we find that expression changes in both NOX2 and TRPM8 mRNA predict poor clinical outcome in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer patients, a population with limited available treatment options. The clinical and mechanistic data demonstrating disruption of this mechanically-activated calcium pathway in breast cancer patients and by KRas activation reveal signaling alterations that could influence cancer cell responses to the tumor mechanical microenvironment and impact patient survival.
    • Microtubule disruption reduces metastasis more effectively than primary tumor growth.

      Thompson, Keyata N; Ju, Julia A; Ory, Eleanor C; Pratt, Stephen J P; Lee, Rachel M; Mathias, Trevor J; Chang, Katarina T; Lee, Cornell J; Goloubeva, Olga G; Bailey, Patrick C; et al. (Springer Nature, 2022-02-14)
      Clinical cancer imaging focuses on tumor growth rather than metastatic phenotypes. The microtubule-depolymerizing drug, Vinorelbine, reduced the metastatic phenotypes of microtentacles, reattachment and tumor cell clustering more than tumor cell viability. Treating mice with Vinorelbine for only 24 h had no significant effect on primary tumor survival, but median metastatic tumor survival was extended from 8 to 30 weeks. Microtentacle inhibition by Vinorelbine was also detectable within 1 h, using tumor cells isolated from blood samples. As few as 11 tumor cells were sufficient to yield 90% power to detect this 1 h Vinorelbine drug response, demonstrating feasibility with the small number of tumor cells available from patient biopsies. This study establishes a proof-of-concept that targeted microtubule disruption can selectively inhibit metastasis and reveals that existing FDA-approved therapies could have anti-metastatic actions that are currently overlooked when focusing exclusively on tumor growth.
    • Tubulin Carboxypeptidase Activity Promotes Focal Gelatin Degradation in Breast Tumor Cells and Induces Apoptosis in Breast Epithelial Cells That Is Overcome by Oncogenic Signaling.

      Mathias, Trevor J; Ju, Julia A; Lee, Rachel M; Thompson, Keyata N; Mull, Makenzy L; Annis, David A; Chang, Katarina T; Ory, Eleanor C; Stemberger, Megan B; Hotta, Takashi; et al. (MDPI AG, 2022-03-28)
      Post-translational modifications (PTMs) of the microtubule network impart differential functions across normal cell types and their cancerous counterparts. The removal of the C-terminal tyrosine of α-tubulin (deTyr-Tub) as performed by the tubulin carboxypeptidase (TCP) is of particular interest in breast epithelial and breast cancer cells. The recent discovery of the genetic identity of the TCP to be a vasohibin (VASH1/2) coupled with a small vasohibin-binding protein (SVBP) allows for the functional effect of this tubulin PTM to be directly tested for the first time. Our studies revealed the immortalized breast epithelial cell line MCF10A undergoes apoptosis following transfection with TCP constructs, but the addition of oncogenic KRas or Bcl-2/Bcl-xL overexpression prevents subsequent apoptotic induction in the MCF10A background. Functionally, an increase in deTyr-Tub via TCP transfection in MDA-MB-231 and Hs578t breast cancer cells leads to enhanced focal gelatin degradation. Given the elevated deTyr-Tub at invasive tumor fronts and the correlation with poor breast cancer survival, these new discoveries help clarify how the TCP synergizes with oncogene activation, increases focal gelatin degradation, and may correspond to increased tumor cell invasion. These connections could inform more specific microtubule-directed therapies to target deTyr-tubulin.