Cell invasion through basement membrane: The netrin receptor DCC guides the way.
Cell invasion through basement membrane is an essential part of normal development and physiology, and occurs during the pathological progression of human inflammatory diseases and cancer. F-actin-rich membrane protrusions, called invadopodia, have been hypothesized to be the "drill bits" of invasive cells, mediating invasion through the dense, highly cross-linked basement membrane matrix. Though studied in vitro for over 30 y, invadopodia function in vivo has remained elusive. We have recently discovered that invadopodia breach basement membrane during anchor cell invasion in C. elegans, a genetically and visually tractable in vivo invasion event. Further, we found that the netrin receptor DCC localizes to the initial site of basement membrane breach and directs invasion through a single gap in the matrix. In this commentary, we examine how the dynamics and structure of AC-invadopodia compare with in vitro invadopodia and how the netrin receptor guides invasion through a single basement membrane breach. We end with a discussion of our surprising result that the anchor cell pushes the basement membrane aside, instead of completely dissolving it through proteolysis, and provide some ideas for how proteases and physical displacement may work together to ensure efficient and robust invasion.