Generation of anisotropic strain dysregulates wild-type cell division at the interface between host and oncogenic tissue

Megan Moruzzi, Alexander Nestor-Bergmann, Georgina Goddard, Nawseen Tarannum, Keith Brennan, Sarah Woolner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epithelial tissues are highly sensitive to anisotropies in mechanical force, with cells altering fundamental behaviours such as cell adhesion, migration and cell division [1-5]. It is well known that in the later stages of carcinoma (epithelial cancer), the presence of tumours alters the mechanical properties of a host tissue and that these changes contribute to disease progression [6-9]. However, in the earliest stages of
carcinoma, when a clonal cluster of oncogene-expressing cells first establishes in the epithelium, the extent to which mechanical changes alter cell behaviour in the tissue as a whole remains unclear. This is despite knowledge that many common oncogenes, such as oncogenic Ras, alter cell stiffness and contractility [10-13]. Here, we investigate how mechanical changes at the cellular level of an oncogenic cluster can translate into the generation of anisotropic strain across an epithelium, altering cell behaviour in neighbouring host tissue. We generated clusters of oncogene-expressing cells within otherwise normal in vivo epithelium, using Xenopus laevis embryos. We find that cells in kRasV12, but not cMYC, clusters have increased contractility, which introduces radial stress in the tissue and deforms surrounding host cells. The strain imposed by kRasV12 clusters leads to increased cell division and altered division orientation in neighbouring host tissue, effects that can be rescued by reducing actomyosin contractility specifically in the kRasV12 cells. Our findings indicate that some oncogenes can alter the mechanical and proliferative properties of host tissue from the earliest stages of cancer development, changes which have the potential to contribute to tumorigenesis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 May 2021


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