News from DCEXS-UPF
An international team of researchers led by Miguel Ángel Valverde, of the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences at UPF, shows for the first time that ion channels capable of detecting changes in the physical properties of the cell environment play a key role in the process of tumour invasion and metastasis. The discovery could turn these channels into the target of new drugs that reduce the risk of metastasis.
Invasion and metastasis are characteristics that determine that a locally-growing cancer is transformed into a systemic process that may endanger the patient’s life. Metastasis in the brain is common in breast cancer and one of the most common causes of death by cancer. To reach the brain, breast cancer cells must migrate from the tumour where they originated, enter the bloodstream, and cross another barrier that protects the brain in a special way, and so most of them die before implanting themselves in the brain.
Each and every one of these steps involves mechanical alterations in the tumour cells. They have to modify their shape and squeeze themselves to move through the confined spaces available, as does an octopus to hide in unlikely places. They also have to release proteins that, like a chemical drill, allow them to undo the barriers that arise along their way. And finally, in the case of breast cancer cells that metastasize in brain, they need proteins, serpins, that cancel the brain’s natural defences, allowing the tumour to grow in its new location.
Researchers of the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (CEXS) at UPF, led by Miguel Ángel Valverde, have identified that a low level of the Piezo2 channel hampers the secretion of serpins, invasion and proliferation; while a high level favours them. The research is published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and involves researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the universities of Grenoble (France) and Johns Hopkins (USA).
Carlos Pardo-Pastor, et.al. Piezo2 channel regulates RhoA and actin cytoskeleton to promote cell mechanobiological responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. February 2018