Apical cell protrusions cause vertical deformation of the soft cancer nucleus Academic Article uri icon


  • Breast cancer nuclei have highly irregular shapes, which are diagnostic and prognostic markers of breast cancer progression. The mechanisms by which irregular cancer nuclear shapes develop are not well understood. Here we report the existence of vertical, apical cell protrusions in cultured MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Once formed, these protrusions persist over time scales of hours and are associated with vertically upward nuclear deformations. They are absent in normal mammary epithelial cells (MCF-10A cells). Microtubule disruption enriched these protrusions preferentially in MDA-MB-231 cells compared with MCF-10A cells, whereas inhibition of nonmuscle myosin II (NMMII) abolished this enrichment. Dynamic confocal imaging of the vertical cell and nuclear shape revealed that the apical cell protrusions form first, and in response, the nucleus deforms and/or subsequently gets vertically extruded into the apical protrusion. Overexpression of lamin A/C in MDA-MB-231 cells reduced nuclear deformation in apical protrusions. These data highlight the role of mechanical stresses generated by moving boundaries, as well as abnormal nuclear mechanics in the development of abnormal nuclear shapes in breast cancer cells.

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Kent, I. A., Zhang, Q., Katiyar, A., Li, Y., Pathak, S., Dickinson, R. B., & Lele, T. P.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • November 2019