Keratin-associated protein 5–5 controls cytoskeletal function and cancer cell vascular invasion

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Cancer cell vascular invasion is a crucial step in the malignant progression toward metastasis. Here we used a genome-wide RNA interference screen with E0771 mammary cancer cells to uncover drivers of endothelial monolayer invasion. We identified keratin-associated protein 5–5 (Krtap5–5) as a candidate. Krtap5–5 belongs to a large protein family that is implicated in crosslinking keratin intermediate filaments during hair formation, yet these Krtaps have no reported role in cancer. Depletion of Krtap5–5 from cancer cells led to cell blebbing and a loss of keratins 14 and 18, in addition to the upregulation of vimentin intermediate filaments. This intermediate filament subtype switching induced dysregulation of the actin cytoskeleton and reduced the expression of hemidesmosomal α6/β4-integrins. We further demonstrate that knockdown of keratin 18 phenocopies the loss of Krtap5–5, suggesting that Krtap5–5 crosstalks with keratin 18 in E0771 cells. Disruption of the keratin cytoskeleton by perturbing Krtap5–5 function broadly altered the expression of cytoskeleton regulators and the localization of cell surface markers. Krtap5–5 depletion did not impact cell viability but reduced cell motility and extracellular matrix invasion, as well as extravasation of cancer cells into tissues in zebrafish and mice. We conclude that Krtap5–5 is a previously unknown regulator of cytoskeletal function in cancer cells that modulates motility and vascular invasion. Thus, in addition to its physiologic function, a Krtap can serve as a switch toward malignant progression.

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