Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Targeting cancer cell integrins using gold nanorods in photothermal therapy inhibits migration through affecting cytoskeletal proteins.

PMID 28652358


Metastasis is responsible for most cancer-related deaths, but the current clinical treatments are not effective. Recently, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) were discovered to inhibit cancer cell migration and prevent metastasis. Rationally designed AuNPs could greatly benefit their antimigration property, but the molecular mechanisms need to be explored. Cytoskeletons are cell structural proteins that closely relate to migration, and surface receptor integrins play critical roles in controlling the organization of cytoskeletons. Herein, we developed a strategy to inhibit cancer cell migration by targeting integrins, using Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide-functionalized gold nanorods. To enhance the effect, AuNRs were further activated with 808-nm near-infrared (NIR) light to generate heat for photothermal therapy (PPTT), where the temperature was adjusted not to affect the cell viability/proliferation. Our results demonstrate changes in cell morphology, observed as cytoskeleton protrusions-i.e., lamellipodia and filopodia-were reduced after treatment. The Western blot analysis indicates the downstream effectors of integrin were attracted toward the antimigration direction. Proteomics results indicated broad perturbations in four signaling pathways, Rho GTPases, actin, microtubule, and kinases-related pathways, which are the downstream regulators of integrins. Due to the dominant role of integrins in controlling cytoskeleton, focal adhesion, actomyosin contraction, and actin and microtubule assembly have been disrupted by targeting integrins. PPTT further enhanced the remodeling of cytoskeletal proteins and decreased migration. In summary, the ability of targeting AuNRs to cancer cell integrins and the introduction of PPTT stimulated broad regulation on the cytoskeleton, which provides the evidence for a potential medical application for controlling cancer metastasis.