Recently, a robust mechanical method has been established to isolate a small subpopulation of highly tumorigenic tumor repopulating cells (TRCs) from parental melanoma cells. In order to characterize the molecular and mechanical properties of TRCs, we utilized the tension gauge tether (TGT) single-molecule platform and investigated force requirements during early cell spreading events. TRCs required the peak single molecular tension of around 40 pN through integrins for initial adhesion like the parental control cells, but unlike the control cells, they did not spread and formed very few mature focal adhesions (FAs). Single molecule resolution RNA quantification of three Rho GTPases showed that downregulation of Cdc42, but not Rac1, is responsible for the unusual biophysical features of TRCs and that a threshold level of Cdc42 transcripts per unit cell area is required to initiate cell spreading. Cdc42 overexpression rescued TRC spreading through FA formation and restored the sensitivity to tension cues such that TRCs, like parental control cells, increase cell spreading with increasing single-molecular tension cues. Our single molecule studies identified an unusual biophysical feature of suppressed spreading of TRCs that may enable us to distinguish TRC population from a pool of heterogeneous tumor cell population.

Available for download on Saturday, May 04, 2019