• The Small GTPase Rac1 Increases Cell Surface Stiffness and Enhances 3D Migration Into Extracellular Matrices.

      Kunschmann, Tom; Puder, Stefanie; Fischer, Tony; Steffen, Anika; Rottner, Klemens; Mierke, Claudia Tanja; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Nature research, 2019-05-22)
      Membrane ruffling and lamellipodia formation promote the motility of adherent cells in two-dimensional motility assays by mechano-sensing of the microenvironment and initiation of focal adhesions towards their surroundings. Lamellipodium formation is stimulated by small Rho GTPases of the Rac subfamily, since genetic removal of these GTPases abolishes lamellipodium assembly. The relevance of lamellipodial or invadopodial structures for facilitating cellular mechanics and 3D cell motility is still unclear. Here, we hypothesized that Rac1 affects cell mechanics and facilitates 3D invasion. Thus, we explored whether fibroblasts that are genetically deficient for Rac1 (lacking Rac2 and Rac3) harbor altered mechanical properties, such as cellular deformability, intercellular adhesion forces and force exertion, and exhibit alterations in 3D motility. Rac1 knockout and control cells were analyzed for changes in deformability by applying an external force using an optical stretcher. Five Rac1 knockout cell lines were pronouncedly more deformable than Rac1 control cells upon stress application. Using AFM, we found that cell-cell adhesion forces are increased in Rac1 knockout compared to Rac1-expressing fibroblasts. Since mechanical deformability, cell-cell adhesion strength and 3D motility may be functionally connected, we investigated whether increased deformability of Rac1 knockout cells correlates with changes in 3D motility. All five Rac1 knockout clones displayed much lower 3D motility than Rac1-expressing controls. Moreover, force exertion was reduced in Rac1 knockout cells, as assessed by 3D fiber displacement analysis. Interference with cellular stiffness through blocking of actin polymerization by Latrunculin A could not further reduce invasion of Rac1 knockout cells. In contrast, Rac1-expressing controls treated with Latrunculin A were again more deformable and less invasive, suggesting actin polymerization is a major determinant of observed Rac1-dependent effects. Together, we propose that regulation of 3D motility by Rac1 partly involves cellular mechanics such as deformability and exertion of forces.