"Cooperation is in our Nature: Using Image Guided Genomics to Probe Collective Invasion"
Adam Marcus, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology
Associate Director for Basic Research and Shared Resources, Winship Cancer Institute
Director, Emory Integrated Cellular Imaging (ICI) Core
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Phenotypic heterogeneity is widely observed in cancer cell populations. Here, to probe this heterogeneity, we developed an image-guided genomics technique termed spatiotemporal genomic and cellular analysis (SaGA) that allows for precise selection and amplification of living and rare cells. SaGA was used on collectively invading 3D cancer cell packs to create purified leader and follower cell lines. The leader cell cultures are phenotypically stable and highly invasive in contrast to follower cultures, which show phenotypic plasticity over time and minimally invade in a sheet-like pattern. Genomic and molecular interrogation reveals an atypical VEGF-based vasculogenesis signaling that facilitates recruitment of follower cells but not for leader cell motility itself, which instead utilizes focal adhesion kinase-fibronectin signaling. While leader cells provide an escape mechanism for followers, follower cells in turn provide leaders with increased growth and survival. These data support a symbiotic model of collective invasion where phenotypically distinct cell types cooperate to promote their escape.