Insulin promotes cell migration by regulating PSA-NCAM

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Cellular interactions with the extracellular environment are modulated by cell surface polysialic acid (PSA) carried by the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM). PSA-NCAM is involved in cellular processes such as differentiation, plasticity, and migration, and is elevated in Alzheimer's disease as well as in metastatic tumour cells. Our previous work demonstrated that insulin enhances the abundance of cell surface PSA by inhibiting PSA-NCAM endocytosis. In the present study we have identified a mechanism for insulin-dependent inhibition of PSA-NCAM turnover affecting cell migration. Insulin enhanced the phosphorylation of the focal adhesion kinase leading to dissociation of αv-integrin/PSA-NCAM clusters, and promoted cell migration. Our results show that αv-integrin plays a key role in the PSA-NCAM turnover process. αv-integrin knockdown stopped PSA-NCAM from being endocytosed, and αv-integrin/PSA-NCAM clusters co-labelled intracellularly with Rab5, altogether indicating a role for αv-integrin as a carrier for PSA-NCAM during internalisation. Furthermore, inhibition of p-FAK caused dissociation of αv-integrin/PSA-NCAM clusters and counteracted the insulin-induced accumulation of PSA at the cell surface and cell migration was impaired. Our data reveal a functional association between the insulin/p-FAK-dependent regulation of PSA-NCAM turnover and cell migration through the extracellular matrix. Most importantly, they identify a novel mechanism for insulin-stimulated cell migration.

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