Matrix rigidity induces osteolytic gene expression of metastatic breast cancer cells

Nazanin S. Ruppender, Alyssa R. Merkel, T. John Martin, Gregory R. Mundy, Julie A. Sterling, Scott A. Guelcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Nearly 70% of breast cancer patients with advanced disease will develop bone metastases. Once established in bone, tumor cells produce factors that cause changes in normal bone remodeling, such as parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP). While enhanced expression of PTHrP is known to stimulate osteoclasts to resorb bone, the environmental factors driving tumor cells to express PTHrP in the early stages of development of metastatic bone disease are unknown. In this study, we have shown that tumor cells known to metastasize to bone respond to 2D substrates with rigidities comparable to that of the bone microenvironment by increasing expression and production of PTHrP. The cellular response is regulated by Rhodependent actomyosin contractility mediated by TGF-β signaling. Inhibition of Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) using both pharmacological and genetic approaches decreased PTHrP expression. Furthermore, cells expressing a dominant negative form of the TGF-ß receptor did not respond to substrate rigidity, and inhibition of ROCK decreased PTHrP expression induced by exogenous TGF-β. These observations suggest a role for the differential rigidity of the mineralized bone microenvironment in early stages of tumor-induced osteolysis, which is especially important in metastatic cancer since many cancers (such as those of the breast and lung) preferentially metastasize to bone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15451
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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