Cells in the body communicate with each other in order to cooperate efficiently. This communication is in part achieved by regulated secretion of signaling molecules, which when released from a cell may activate receptors present at the plasma membrane of an adjacent cell. Such signals affect both cell fate and behavior. Dysregulated signaling may lead to disease, including cancer. This thesis is focused on how exocytosis and subsequent activation and trafficking of receptors can be regulated, and what the consequences of this regulation may be for cell migration.
Actin filaments are important transport structures for secretory vesicle trafficking. In Paper 1, actin polymerization was shown to induce formation of ordered lipid domains in the plasma membrane. Accordingly, actin filaments may thus create and stabilize specific membrane domains that enable docking of vesicles containing secretory cargo.
The RhoGEF FGD5 regulates Cdc42 which can result in cytoskeletal rearrangements. In Paper II, FGD5 was shown to be selectively expressed in blood vessels and required for normal VEGFR2 signaling. FGD5 protected VEGFR2 from proteasome-mediated degradation and was essential for endothelial cells to efficiently respond to chemotactic gradients of VEGFA.
The exocyst component EXOC7 is essential for tethering secretory vesicles to the plasma membrane prior to SNARE-mediated fusion. In Paper III, EXOC7 was required for trafficking of VEGFR2-containing vesicles to the inner plasma membrane and VEGFR2 presentation at the cell surface.
The ability of tumor cells to escape the primary tumor and establish metastasis is in part dependent on their capacity to migrate. In Paper IV, a method based on time-lapse microscopy and fluorescent dyes was created to analyze single cancer cell migration in mixed cancer cell cultures, and in particular the influence of different types on neighboring cells was assessed.
In conclusion, these studies have enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms behind cellular trafficking, and may be applied in the future to develop more specific therapeutics to treat cancer and other diseases associated with abnormal angiogenesis and cellular migration.