The ability of tumor cells to invade and metastasize requires deregulation of interactions with adjacent cells and the extracellular matrix. A major challenge of cancer biology is to observe the dynamics of the proteins involved in this process in their functional and physiologic context. Here, for the first time, we have used photobleaching and photoactivation to compare the mobility of cell adhesion and plasma membrane probes in vitro and in tumors grown in mice (in vivo). We find differences between in vitro and in vivo recovery dynamics of two key molecules, the tumor suppressor E-cadherin and the membrane-targeting sequence of H-Ras. Our data show that E-cadherin dynamics are significantly faster in vivo compared with cultured cells, that the ratio of E-cadherin stabilized in cell-cell junctions is significantly higher in vivo, and that E-cadherin mobility correlates with cell migration. Moreover, quantitative imaging has allowed us to assess the effects of therapeutic intervention on E-cadherin dynamics using dasatinib, a clinically approved Src inhibitor, and show clear differences in the efficacy of drug treatment in vivo. Our results show for the first time the utility of photobleaching and photoactivation in the analysis of dynamic biomarkers in living animals. Furthermore, this work highlights critical differences in molecular dynamics in vitro and in vivo, which have important implications for the use of cultured disease models as surrogates for living tissue
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