Abstract 

Background

Branched actin assembly is critical for both cell motility and membrane trafficking. The branched actin regulator cortactin is generally considered to promote cell migration by controlling leading-edge lamellipodial dynamics. However, recent reports indicate that lamellipodia are not required for cell movement, suggesting an alternate mechanism.

Results

Because cortactin also regulates membrane trafficking and adhesion dynamics, we hypothesized that altered secretion of extracellular matrix (ECM) and/or integrin trafficking might underlie motility defects of cortactin-knockdown (KD) cells. Consistent with a primary defect in ECM secretion, both motility and lamellipodial defects of cortactin-KD cells were fully rescued by plating on increasing concentrations of exogenous ECM. Furthermore, cortactin-KD cell speed defects were rescued on cell-free autocrine ECM produced by control cells, but not on ECM produced by cortactin-KD cells. Investigation of the mechanism revealed that whereas endocytosed fibronectin (FN) is redeposited at the basal cell surface by control cells, cortactin-KD cells exhibit defective FN secretion and abnormal FN retention in a late endocytic/lysosomal compartment. Cortactin-KD motility and FN deposition defects were phenocopied by KD in control cells of the lysosomal fusion regulator synaptotagmin-7. Rescue of cortactin-KD cells by expression of cortactin-binding domain mutants revealed that interaction with the Arp2/3 complex and actin filaments is essential for rescue of both cell motility and autocrine ECM secretion phenotypes, whereas binding of SH3-domain partners is not required.

Conclusions

Efficient cell motility, promoted by cortactin regulation of branched actin networks, involves processing and resecretion of internalized ECM from a late endosomal/lysosomal compartment.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.