We describe a model system in which cancer cell colonies disperse into single, highly migratory cells in response to lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). Though LPA is known to stimulate chemotaxis and chemokinesis, a colony dispersal effect has not been reported, to our knowledge. Cancer colony dispersal by LPA is comprised of an ordered sequence of events: (1) stimulation of membrane ruffling and formation of lamellipodia, (2) dissolution of adherens junctions, (3) single cell migration in a mesenchymal-like morphology we term "ginkgo-leaf." The net result is dispersal of carcinoma cells from a compact colony. We analyzed these three steps using live-cell imaging and computer-assisted quantification and measured the following parameters: onset of lamellipodia formation, lamellipodia velocity, colony dispersal, trans-epithelial resistance, migrating cell number and speed. Because hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) was described as an epithelial scatter factor, we compared it to LPA in our system and found that HGF has no epithelial colony dispersal properties and that this effect is strictly related to LPA. Given its striking similarity to tumor cell budding observed in patients, we propose that LPA-colony dispersal may provide a cellular mechanism underlying cancer invasion and as such deserves further studies.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.