Tumorigenic fragments of APC cause dominant defects in directional cell migration in multiple model systems

Scott A. Nelson, Zhouyu Li, Ian P. Newton, David Fraser, Rachel E. Milne, David M. A. Martin, David Schiffmann, Xuesong Yang, Dirk Dormann, Cornelis J. Weijer, Paul L. Appleton, Inke S. Nathke (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Nonsense mutations that result in the expression of truncated, N-terminal, fragments of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumour suppressor protein are found in most sporadic and some hereditary colorectal cancers. These mutations can cause tumorigenesis by eliminating ß-catenin-binding sites from APC, which leads to upregulation of ß-catenin and thereby results in the induction of oncogenes such as MYC. Here we show that, in three distinct experimental model systems, expression of an N-terminal fragment of APC (N-APC) results in loss of directionality, but not speed, of cell motility independently of changes in ß-catenin regulation. We developed a system to culture and fluorescently label live pieces of gut tissue to record high-resolution three-dimensional time-lapse movies of cells in situ. This revealed an unexpected complexity of normal gut cell migration, a key process in gut epithelial maintenance, with cells moving with spatial and temporal discontinuity. Quantitative comparison of gut tissue from wild-type mice and APC heterozygotes (APC(Min/+); multiple intestinal neoplasia model) demonstrated that cells in precancerous epithelia lack directional preference when moving along the crypt-villus axis. This effect was reproduced in diverse experimental systems: in developing chicken embryos, mesoderm cells expressing N-APC failed to migrate normally; in amoeboid Dictyostelium, which lack endogenous APC, expressing an N-APC fragment maintained cell motility, but the cells failed to perform directional chemotaxis; and multicellular Dictyostelium slug aggregates similarly failed to perform phototaxis. We propose that N-terminal fragments of APC represent a gain-of-function mutation that causes cells within tissue to fail to migrate directionally in response to relevant guidance cues. Consistent with this idea, crypts in histologically normal tissues of APC(Min/+) intestines are overpopulated with cells, suggesting that a lack of migration might cause cell accumulation in a precancerous state.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)940-947
    Number of pages8
    JournalDisease Models and Mechanisms (DMM)
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


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