ARTICLE ABSTRACTThe oncogene YAP has been shown previously to promote tumor growth and metastasis. However, how YAP influences the behavior of tumor cells traveling within the circulatory system has not been as well explored. Given that rate-limiting steps of metastasis are known to occur while tumor cells enter, travel through, or exit circulation, we sought to study how YAP influences tumor cell behavior within the circulatory system. Intravital imaging in live zebrafish embryos revealed that YAP influenced the distribution of tumor cells within the animal following intravenous injection. Control cells became lodged in the first capillary bed encountered in the tail, whereas cells overexpressing constitutively active YAP were able to travel through this capillary plexus, reenter systemic circulation, and seed in the brain. YAP controlled transit through these capillaries by promoting active migration within the vasculature. These results were corroborated in a mouse model following intravenous injection, where active YAP increased the number of circulating tumor cells over time. Our results suggest a possible mechanism whereby tumor cells can spread to organs beyond the first capillary bed downstream from the primary tumor. These results also show that a specific gene can affect the distribution of tumor cells within an animal, thereby influencing the global pattern of metastasis in that animal.
These findings demonstrate that YAP endows tumor cells with the ability to move through capillaries, allowing them to return to and persist in circulation, thereby increasing their metastatic spread.See related commentary by Davidson, p. 3797