Background: Colon cancer cells can migrate and metastasize by undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are non-cancerous, multipotent adult stem cells, which can also migrate. In this study, we wanted to compare the biological, physical, and functional properties of these migratory cells. Materials and methods: HT-29 and HCT-116, two human colon carcinoma cell lines, represent less aggressive and more aggressive cancer cells, respectively. MSCs were isolated from human bone marrow. After confirming the identity of all the cell types, they were evaluated for E-cadherin, β1-integrin, Vimentin, ZEB-1, β-catenin, and 18S rRNA using Q-PCR. MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity were evaluated using gelatin zymography. Functional tests like wound healing assay, migration assay, and invasion assay were also done. Biomechanical properties like cell stiffness and non-specific adhesion (between indenter probe and cell membrane) were evaluated through nanoindentation using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Results: Expression of EMT and stem cell markers showed typical expression patterns for HT-29, HCT-116, and MSCs. Functional tests showed that MSCs migrated faster than malignant cells. MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity reinforced this behavior. Interestingly, the migration/invasion capacity of MSCs was comparable to aggressive HCT-116, and more than HT-29. MSCs also showed the maximum cell stiffness and non-specific cell-probe adhesions, followed by HCT116 and HT29 cells. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the migratory properties of MSCs is comparable or even greater than that of cancer cells and despite their high migration potential, they also have the maximum stiffness.
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