Cell invasion through basement membrane (BM) barriers is important in development, immune function and cancer progression. As invasion through BM is often stochastic, capturing gene expression profiles of actively invading cells in vivo remains elusive. Using the stereotyped timing of Caenorhabditis elegans anchor cell (AC) invasion, we generated an AC transcriptome during BM breaching. Through a focused RNAi screen of transcriptionally enriched genes, we identified new invasion regulators, including translationally controlled tumor protein (TCTP). We also discovered gene enrichment of ribosomal proteins. AC-specific RNAi, endogenous ribosome labeling and ribosome biogenesis analysis revealed that a burst of ribosome production occurs shortly after AC specification, which drives the translation of proteins mediating BM removal. Ribosomes also enrich near the AC endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Sec61 translocon and the endomembrane system expands before invasion. We show that AC invasion is sensitive to ER stress, indicating a heightened requirement for translation of ER-trafficked proteins. These studies reveal key roles for ribosome biogenesis and endomembrane expansion in cell invasion through BM and establish the AC transcriptome as a resource to identify mechanisms underlying BM transmigration.

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