Carcinoma dissemination can occur when heterogeneous tumor and tumor-stromal cell clusters migrate together via collective migration. Cells at the front lead and direct collective migration, yet how these leader cells form and direct migration are not fully appreciated. From live videos of primary mouse and human breast tumor organoids in a 3D microfluidic system mimicking native breast tumor microenvironment, we developed 3D computational models, which hypothesize that leader cells need to generate high protrusive forces and overcome extracellular matrix (ECM) resistance at the leading edge. From single-cell sequencing analyses, we find that leader cells are heterogeneous and identify and isolate a keratin 14- and cadherin-3-positive subpopulation sufficient to lead collective migration. Cdh3 controls leader cell protrusion dynamics through local production of laminin, which is required for integrin/focal adhesion function. Our findings highlight how a subset of leader cells interact with the microenvironment to direct collective migration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-50.e9
JournalDevelopmental cell
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2023


  • cadherin-integrin crosstalk
  • cancer metastasis
  • cellular protrusion dynamics
  • collective migration
  • leader cells


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