GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program



First Thesis Advisor

Elizabeth Luna, Ph.D.


Neoplasm Metastasis, Membrane Proteins, Extracellular Matrix, Microfilament Proteins, Focal Adhesions, Transcription Factors, Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, Actins, Myosin Type II


Crucial to a cell’s ability to migrate is the organization of its plasma membrane and associated proteins in a polarized manner to interact with and respond to its surrounding environment. Cells interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM) through specialized contact sites, including podosomes and invadopodia. Tumor cells use F-actin-rich invadopodia to degrade ECM and invade tissues; related structures, termed podosomes, are sites of dynamic ECM interaction and degradation. We show here that supervillin (SV), a peripheral membrane protein that binds F-actin and myosin II,reorganizes the actin cytoskeleton and potentiates invadopodial function. Overexpressed SV increases the number of F-actin punctae, which are highly dynamic and co-localize with markers of podosomes and invadopodia. Endogenous SV localizes to the cores of Src-generated podosomes in COS-7 cells and with invadopodia in MDA-MB-231 cells. EGFP-SV overexpression increases the average amount of matrix degradation; RNAi-mediated downregulation of SV decreases degradation. Cortactin, an essential component of both podosomes and invadopodia, binds SV sequences in vitro and contributes to the formation of EGFP-SV induced punctae. Additionally, SV affects cortactin localization,which could provide a mechanism for SV action at invadopodia.

The formation of cholesterol-rich membrane rafts is one method of plasma membrane organization. A property of membrane rafts is resistance to extraction with cold Triton X-100 and subsequent flotation to low buoyant densities. The actin cytoskeleton has been implicated in many signaling events localized to membrane rafts, but interactions between actin and raft components are not well characterized. Our laboratory isolated a heavy detergent resistant membrane fraction from neutrophils, called DRM-H, that contains at least 23 plasma membrane proteins. DRM-H is rich in cytoskeletal proteins, including fodrin, actin, myosin II, as well as supervillin. DRM-H also contains proteins implicated in both raft organization and membrane-mediated signaling. DRM-H complexes exhibit a higher buoyant density than do most DRMs (referred to as DRM-L), which are deficient in cytoskeletal proteins. By using similar purification methods, I find that COS-7 cells also contain cytoskeleton-associated DRMs. In addition, when transfected into COS-7 cells, estrogen receptor (ER)α associates with DRM-H, while ERβ is seen in both DRM-L and DRM-H populations, suggesting a role for DRM-H in nongenomic estrogen signaling. Thus, the cytoskeleton-associated DRM-H not limited to hematopoietic cells and could constitute a scaffold for membrane raftcytoskeleton signaling events in many cells.

Taken together, our results show that SV is a component of cytoskeleton-associated membrane rafts as well as podosomes and invadopodia, and that SV plays a role in invadopodial function. SV, with its connections to both membrane rafts and the cytoskeleton, is well situated to mediate cortactin localization, activation state, and/or dynamics of matrix metalloproteases at the ventral cell surface for proper matrix degradation through invadopodia. The molecular dissection of invadopodia formation and function may contribute to a greater understanding of in vivo invasion, and thus, tumor cell metastasis.



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