Cell invasion plays a central role in a wide variety of biological phenomena and is the cause of tumour growth and metastasis. Understanding the biochemical mechanisms that control cell invasion is one of the major goals of our laboratory. Podosomes and invadopodia are specialized cellular structures present in cells with physiological or pathological invasive behaviours. These transient structures are localized at the ventral cell surface, contain an array of different proteins and facilitate cell–substrate adhesion, as well as the local proteolytic activity necessary for extracellular matrix remodelling and subsequent cellular invasion. We have shown previously that the adaptor proteins and Src substrates Tks4 and Tks5 are required for podosome and invadopodia formation, for cancer cell invasion in vitro, and for tumour growth in vivo. We have also defined a role for the Tks-mediated generation of ROS (reactive oxygen species) in both podosome and invadopodia formation, and invasive behaviour. Tks4 and Tks5 are also required for proper embryonic development, probably because of their roles in cell migration. Finally, we recently implicated podosome formation as part of the synthetic phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells. Inhibitors of podosome and invadopodia formation might have utility in the treatment of vascular diseases and cancer. We have therefore developed a high-content cell-based high-throughput screening assay that allows us to identify inhibitors and activators of podosome/invadopodia formation. We have used this assay to screen for small-molecule inhibitors and defined novel regulators of invadopodia formation. In the present paper, I review these recent findings.

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