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J Vis Exp. 2019 Aug 8;(150). doi: 10.3791/60122.

A 3D Spheroid Model as a More Physiological System for Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Differentiation and Invasion In Vitro Studies.

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Institute of Physiological Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, University of Münster; Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisbon.
Institute of Physiological Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, University of Münster;


Defining the ideal model for an in vitro study is essential, mainly if studying physiological processes such as differentiation of cells. In the tumor stroma, host fibroblasts are stimulated by cancer cells to differentiate. Thus, they acquire a phenotype that contributes to the tumor microenvironment and supports tumor progression. By using the spheroid model, we have set up such a 3D in vitro model system, in which we analyzed the role of laminin-332 and its receptor integrin α3β1 in this differentiation process. This spheroid model system not only reproduces the tumor microenvironment conditions in a more accurate way, but also is a very versatile model since it allows different downstream studies, such as immunofluorescent staining of both intra- and extracellular markers, as well as deposited extracellular matrix proteins. Moreover, transcriptional analyses by qPCR, flow cytometry and cellular invasion can be studied with this model. Here, we describe a protocol of a spheroid model to assess the role of CAFs' integrin α3β1 and its ectopically deposited ligand, laminin-332, in differentiation and in supporting the invasion of pancreatic cancer cells.


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