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Am J Pathol. 1986 Jan;122(1):129-39.

Basement membrane as a spatial organizer of polarized epithelia. Exogenous basement membrane reorients pancreatic epithelial tumor cells in vitro.


The authors have previously described a transplantable pancreatic acinar carcinoma that comprises cells which reorganize and display normal epithelial orientation only when in contact with basement membrane (BM) in vivo. In the present study, they investigated whether exogenous acellular BM or collagenous stroma (prepared from human amnion) was sufficient to reorient pancreatic acinar tumor cells in vitro. Mechanically dispersed tumor cells could not spontaneously attach to standard culture substrata; yet they adhered to exogenous intact BM or to dishes coated with purified laminin or Type IV collagen. Cell contact with amniotic BM resulted in tumor cell shape changes, assembly of intracellular actin into fibrous bundles, and restoration of normal epithelial cell-cell interactions. Computerized morphometry confirmed that tumor cells exhibited a normal polarized distribution of lipid droplets, nuclei, Golgi complexes, and zymogen granules (from base to apex) within 6 hours of culture on BM. Adhering zonules and microvilli were observed only along apical tumor cell surfaces, although full junctional complexes and distinct membrane domains did not reform. Similar attachment, cytoskeletal alterations, and reorientation occurred in the absence of protein synthesis (25 micrograms/ml cycloheximide). In contrast, tumor cells that were maintained on amniotic stroma remained round, displayed circumferential rings of actin, and appeared randomly oriented. Thus, BM may normally serve to integrate and maintain individual cells within a polarized epithelium.

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