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Integr Biol (Camb). 2014 Apr;6(4):382-7. doi: 10.1039/c3ib40211h. Epub 2014 Feb 13.

A screen for short-range paracrine interactions.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2715, USA.


Conventional methods for studying paracrine signaling in vitro may not be sensitive to short-range effects resulting from signal dilution or decay. We employ a microfabricated culture substrate to maintain two cell populations in microscale proximity. Individual populations can be quickly retrieved for cell-specific readouts by standard high-throughput assays. We show that this platform is sensitive to short-range interactions that are not detectable by common methods such as conditioned media transfer or porous cell culture inserts, as revealed by gene expression changes in a tumor-stromal crosstalk model. In addition, we are able to detect population-specific gene expression changes that would have been masked in mixed co-cultures. We thus demonstrate a tool for investigating an important class of intercellular communication that may be overlooked in conventional biological studies.

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