Metastasizing tumor cells must traverse diverse extracellular matrices during dissemination. Extracellular matrices consist of two basic types, interstitial stroma and basement membranes. Extracellular matrices are chemically complex structures that interact with cell surfaces by a number of mechanisms. There has been a great deal of effort in recent years to understand the molecular nature of extracellular matrices, especially as it relates to the adhesion of normal and malignant cell types. Adhesive noncollagenous glycoproteins, such as laminin and fibronectin, serve pivotal roles in basement membrane and stromal matrices, respectively. These proteins participate in establishing the architecture of extracellular matrices as well as in attaching to the surface of cells and affecting cellular phenotype. This phenotypic effect ranges from adhesion and motility to growth and differentiation. Changes in adhesive characteristics and motility of cells have long been suspected to play a role in mediating the spread of malignant neoplasms. This article is designed to review extracellular matrix constituents that are currently known that can mediate the adhesion and motility of malignant neoplasms. The adhesion of normal and malignant cells to matrices is a complex process mediated by several distinct mechanisms which are initially manifested by changes in cytoskeletal architecture. The topic of normal and malignant cell adhesion to matrices will also be discussed in this regard, since any explanation of tumor cell migration must account for the complex dynamic interactions of the cell surface with the substratum as well as with the cytoskeleton. Finally, current efforts designed to understant the molecular nature of tumor cell:matrix interactions that contribute to metastatic behavior will also be discussed. The rationale behind these studies is that selective inhibition of specific tumor:extracellular matrix interactions can provide an avenue for therapeutic intervention of metastatic cancer.
- adhesion proteins
- tumor cell motility