Metastatic disease is often characterized by altered cellular contractility and deformability, lending cells and groups of cells the flexibility to navigate through different microenvironments. This ability to change cell shape is driven in large part by the structural elements of the mechanobiome, which includes cytoskeletal proteins that sense and respond to mechanical stimuli. Here, we demonstrate that key mechanoresponsive proteins (those that accumulate in response to mechanical stress), specifically nonmuscle myosin IIA and IIC, α- actinin 4, and filamin B, are highly upregulated in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cancer (PDAC) and in patient-derived pancreatic cancer cell lines. Their less responsive sister paralogs (myosin IIB, α-actinin 1, and filamin A) show a smaller dynamic range or disappear with PDAC progression. We demonstrate that these mechanoresponsive proteins directly impact cell mechanics using knockdown and overexpression cell lines. We further quantify the nonmuscle myosin II family members in patient-derived cell lines and identify a role for myosin IIC in the formation of transverse actin arcs in single cells and cortical actin belts in tissue spheroids. We harness the upregulation of myosin IIC and its impact of cytoskeletal architecture through the use of the mechanical modulator 4-hydroxyacetophenone (4-HAP), which increases myosin IIC assembly and stiffens cells. Here, 4-HAP decreases dissemination, induces cortical actin belts, and slows retrograde actin flow in spheroids. Finally, mice having undergone hemisplenectomies with PDAC cells and then treated with 4-HAP have a reduction in liver metastases. Thus, increasing the activity of these mechanoresponsive proteins (in this case, by increasing myosin IIC assembly) to overwhelm the ability of cells to polarize and invade may be an effective strategy to improve the five-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients, currently hovering around 6%.

Citation Format: Alexandra Surcel, Eric S. Schiffhauer, Dustin G. Thomas, Qingfeng Zhu, Kathleen DiNapoli, Maik Herbig, Oliver Otto, Jochen Guck, Elizabeth Jaffee, Pablo A. Iglesias, Robert A. Anders, Douglas N. Robinson. Harnessing the adaptive potential of mechanoresponsive proteins to overwhelm pancreatic cancer dissemination and invasion [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 3154.