Randomly distributed K14 þ breast tumor cells polarize to the leading edge and guide collective migration in response to chemical and mechanical environmental cues

Priscilla Y. Hwang, Audrey Brenot, Ashley C. King, Gregory D. Longmore, Steven George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Collective cell migration is an adaptive, coordinated interactive process involving cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironmental interactions. A critical aspect of collective migration is the sensing and establishment of directional movement. It has been proposed that a subgroup of cells known as leader cells localize at the front edge of a collectively migrating cluster and are responsible for directing migration. However, it is unknown how and when leader cells arrive at the front edge and what environmental cues dictate leader cell development and behavior. Here, we addressed these questions by combining a microfluidic device design that mimics multiple tumor microenvironmental cues concurrently with biologically relevant primary, heterogeneous tumor cell organoids. Prior to migration, breast tumor leader cells (K14 þ ) were present throughout a tumor organoid and migrated (polarized) to the leading edge in response to biochemical and biomechanical cues. Impairment of either CXCR4 (biochemical responsive) or the collagen receptor DDR2 (biomechanical responsive) abrogated polarization of leader cells and directed collective migration. This work demonstrates that K14 þ leader cells utilize both chemical and mechanical cues from the microenvironment to polarize to the leading edge of collectively migrating tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1899-1912
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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