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Int J Oncol. 2007 Dec;31(6):1403-13.

Diversity of cell-mediated adhesions in breast cancer spheroids.

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Roche Pharmaceutical Research Oncology, Penzberg, Germany.


Due to their three dimensional (3D) architecture, multicellular tumor spheroids mimic avascular tumor areas comprising the establishment of diffusion gradients, reduced proliferation rates and increased drug resistance. We have shown recently that the spontaneous formation of spheroids is restricted to a limited number of cell lines whereas the majority grow only as aggregates of cells with loose cell-cell contacts when cultured in 3D. However, by the addition of reconstituted basement membrane (rBM, Matrigel), aggregates can be transformed into spheroids with diffusion barriers and development of quiescent therapy-resistant cells. In this report, we investigated adhesion molecules responsible for rBM-driven versus spontaneous spheroid formation in a diverse population of eight breast tumor cell lines relevant for in vitro and in vivo antitumor drug testing. Inhibition of spheroid formation was monitored in the presence of adhesion molecule functional blocking antibodies and after siRNA-mediated down-regulation of E- and N-cadherin and integrin beta1 adhesion receptors. We identified that E-cadherin mediates the spontaneous formation of spheroids in MCF7, BT-474, T-47D and MDA-MB-361 cells, whereas N-cadherin is responsible for tight packing of MDA-MB-435S cells. In contrast, the matrix protein-induced transformation of 3D aggregates into spheroids in MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 cells is mediated primarily by the collagen I/integrin beta1 interaction with no cadherin involvement. A combination of both, homophilic E-cadherin and integrin beta1/collagen I interaction establishes spheroids in MDA-MB-468 cells. These findings indicate that an evolutionary diverse and complex pattern of interacting cell surface proteins exists in breast cancer cells that determines the 3D growth characteristic in vitro, thereby influencing small molecule or antibody permeation in preclinical in vitro and in vivo tumor models.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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