7 January 2020

Pavlo Gritsenko and Peter Friedl, theme Cancer development and immune defense, report in Nature Cell Biologythat glioma cells infiltrate the brain by a collective network mechanism, which critically depends on p120 catenin. p120 thus represents a potential target to combat glioma.

Diffuse brain infiltration by glioma cells causes detrimental disease progression, but its multicellular coordination is poorly understood. They show here that glioma cells infiltrate the brain collectively as multicellular networks. Contacts between moving glioma cells are adaptive epithelial-like or filamentous junctions stabilized by N-cadherin, β-catenin and p120-catenin, which undergo kinetic turnover, transmit intercellular calcium transients and mediate directional persistence. Downregulation of p120-catenin compromises cell–cell interaction and communication, disrupts collective networks, and both the cadherin and RhoA binding domains of p120-catenin are required for network formation and migration. Deregulating p120-catenin further prevents diffuse glioma cell infiltration of the mouse brain with marginalized microlesions as the outcome. Transcriptomics analysis has identified p120-catenin as an upstream regulator of neurogenesis and cell cycle pathways and a predictor of poor clinical outcome in glioma patients. Collective glioma networks infiltrating the brain thus depend on adherens junctions dynamics, the targeting of which may offer an unanticipated strategy to halt glioma progression.

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