Cancer cells resist mechanical destruction in the circulation via RhoA-myosin II axis

During metastasis cancer cells are exposed to potentially destructive hemodynamic forces including fluid shear stress (FSS) while en route to distant sites. However, prior work indicates that cancer cells are more resistant to brief pulses of high-level fluid shear stress (FSS) in vitro relative to non-transformed epithelial cells. Herein we identify a mechanism of FSS resistance in cancer cells, and extend these findings to mouse models of circulating tumor cells (CTCs). We show that cancer cells acutely isolated from primary tumors are resistant to FSS. Our findings demonstrate that cancer cells activate the RhoA-myosin II axis in response to FSS, which protects them from FSS-induced plasma membrane damage. Moreover, we show that the myosin II activity is protective to CTCs in mouse models. Collectively our data indicate that viable CTCs actively resist destruction by hemodynamic forces and are likely to be more mechanically robust than is commonly thought.



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