Distant metastasis mainly occurs through hematogenous dissemination, where suspended circulating tumor cells (CTCs) experience a considerable level of fluid shear stress. We recently reported that shear flow induced substantial apoptosis of CTCs, although a small subpopulation could still persist. However, how suspended tumor cells survive in shear flow remains poorly understood. This study finds that fluid shear stress eliminates the majority of suspended CTCs and increases nuclear size, whereas it has no effect on the viability of adherent tumor cells and decreases their nuclear size. Shear flow promotes histone acetylation in suspended tumor cells, the inhibition of which using one drug suppresses shear-induced nuclear expansion, suggesting that shear stress might increase nuclear size through histone acetylation. Suppressing histone acetylation-mediated nuclear expansion enhances shear-induced apoptosis of CTCs. These findings suggest that suspended tumor cells respond to shear stress through histone acetylation-mediated nuclear expansion, which protects CTCs from shear-induced destruction. Our study elucidates a unique mechanism underlying the mechanotransduction of suspended CTCs to shear flow, which might hold therapeutic promise for CTC eradication.

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