Combretastatin (CA)-4 and its novel analogue CA-432 impair T-cell migration through the Rho/ROCK signalling pathway

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Graphical abstractThe capacity of T-lymphocytes to migrate and localise in tissues is important in their protective function against infectious agents, however, the ability of these cells to infiltrate the tumour microenvironment is a major contributing factor in the development of cancer. T-cell migration requires ligand (ICAM-1)/integrin (LFA-1) interaction, activating intracellular signalling pathways which result in a distinct polarised morphology, with an actin-rich lamellipodium and microtubule (MT)-rich uropod. Combretastatin (CA)-4 is a MT-destabilising agent that possesses potent anti-tumour properties. In this study, the effect of CA-4 and its novel analogue CA-432 on human T-cell migration was assessed. Cellular pretreatment with either of CA compounds inhibited the migration and chemotaxis of the T-cell line HuT-78 and primary peripheral blood lymphocyte (PBL) T-cells. This migration-inhibitory effect of CA compounds was due to the disruption of the MT network of T-cells through tubulin depolymerisation, reduced tubulin acetylation and decreased MT stability. In addition, both CA compounds induced the RhoA/RhoA associated kinase (ROCK) signalling pathway, leading to the phosphorylation of myosin light chain (MLC). Furthermore, the siRNA-mediated depletion of GEF-H1, a MT-associated nucleotide exchange factor that activates RhoA upon release from MTs, in T-cells prevented CA-induced phosphorylation of MLC and attenuated the formation of actin-rich membrane protrusions and cell contractility. These results suggest an important role for a GEF-H1/RhoA/ROCK/MLC signalling axis in mediating CA-induced contractility of T-cells. Therapeutic agents that target cytoskeletal proteins and are effective in inhibiting cell migration may open new avenues in the treatment of cancer and metastasis.

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