The increasing number of applications of three-dimensional (3D) tumor spheroids as an in vitro model for drug discovery requires their adaptation to large-scale screening formats in every step of a drug screen, including large-scale image analysis. Currently there is no ready-to-use and free image analysis software to meet this large-scale format. Most existing methods involve manually drawing the length and width of the imaged 3D spheroids, which is a tedious and time-consuming process. This study presents a high-throughput image analysis software application – SpheroidSizer, which measures the major and minor axial length of the imaged 3D tumor spheroids automatically and accurately; calculates the volume of each individual 3D tumor spheroid; then outputs the results in two different forms in spreadsheets for easy manipulations in the subsequent data analysis. The main advantage of this software is its powerful image analysis application that is adapted for large numbers of images. It provides high-throughput computation and quality-control workflow. The estimated time to process 1,000 images is about 15 min on a minimally configured laptop, or around 1 min on a multi-core performance workstation. The graphical user interface (GUI) is also designed for easy quality control, and users can manually override the computer results. The key method used in this software is adapted from the active contour algorithm, also known as Snakes, which is especially suitable for images with uneven illumination and noisy background that often plagues automated imaging processing in high-throughput screens. The complimentary “Manual Initialize” and “Hand Draw” tools provide the flexibility to SpheroidSizer in dealing with various types of spheroids and diverse quality images. This high-throughput image analysis software remarkably reduces labor and speeds up the analysis process. Implementing this software is beneficial for 3D tumor spheroids to become a routine in vitro model for drug screens in industry and academia.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Production of Large Numbers of Size-controlled Tumor Spheroids Using Microwell Plates
Institutions: University of Calgary.
Tumor spheroids are increasingly recognized as an important in vitro
model for the behavior of tumor cells in three dimensions. More physiologically relevant than conventional adherent-sheet cultures, they more accurately recapitulate the complexity and interactions present in real tumors. In order to harness this model to better assess tumor biology, or the efficacy of novel therapeutic agents, it is necessary to be able to generate spheroids reproducibly, in a controlled manner and in significant numbers.
The AggreWell system consists of a high-density array of pyramid-shaped microwells, into which a suspension of single cells is centrifuged. The numbers of cells clustering at the bottom of each microwell, and the number and ratio of distinct cell types involved depend only on the properties of the suspension introduced by the experimenter. Thus, we are able to generate tumor spheroids of arbitrary size and composition without needing to modify the underlying platform technology. The hundreds of microwells per square centimeter of culture surface area in turn ensure that extremely high production levels may be attained via a straightforward, nonlabor-intensive process. We therefore expect that this protocol will be broadly useful to researchers in the tumor spheroid field.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, tumor spheroid, size control, scalable, mixed cell types, microwell, forced aggregation, microtissue
A Novel Three-dimensional Flow Chamber Device to Study Chemokine-directed Extravasation of Cells Circulating under Physiological Flow Conditions
Institutions: Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, Cascade LifeSciences Inc..
Extravasation of circulating cells from the bloodstream plays a central role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes, including stem cell homing and tumor metastasis. The three-dimensional flow chamber device (hereafter the 3D device) is a novel in vitro
technology that recreates physiological shear stress and allows each step of the cell extravasation cascade to be quantified. The 3D device consists of an upper compartment in which the cells of interest circulate under shear stress, and a lower compartment of static wells that contain the chemoattractants of interest. The two compartments are separated by porous inserts coated with a monolayer of endothelial cells (EC). An optional second insert with microenvironmental cells of interest can be placed immediately beneath the EC layer. A gas exchange unit allows the optimal CO2
tension to be maintained and provides an access point to add or withdraw cells or compounds during the experiment. The test cells circulate in the upper compartment at the desired shear stress (flow rate) controlled by a peristaltic pump. At the end of the experiment, the circulating and migrated cells are collected for further analyses. The 3D device can be used to examine cell rolling on and adhesion to EC under shear stress, transmigration in response to chemokine gradients, resistance to shear stress, cluster formation, and cell survival. In addition, the optional second insert allows the effects of crosstalk between EC and microenvironmental cells to be examined. The translational applications of the 3D device include testing of drug candidates that target cell migration and predicting the in vivo
behavior of cells after intravenous injection. Thus, the novel 3D device is a versatile and inexpensive tool to study the molecular mechanisms that mediate cellular extravasation.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Cellular Biology, Biophysics, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Immunology, Cells, Biological Factors, Equipment and Supplies, Cell Physiological Phenomena, Natural Science Disciplines, Life Sciences (General), circulating cells, extravasation, physiological shear stress, endothelial cells, microenvironment, chemokine gradient, flow, chamber, cell culture, assay
Live Imaging of Drug Responses in the Tumor Microenvironment in Mouse Models of Breast Cancer
Institutions: Watson School of Biological Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital.
The tumor microenvironment plays a pivotal role in tumor initiation, progression, metastasis, and the response to anti-cancer therapies. Three-dimensional co-culture systems are frequently used to explicate tumor-stroma interactions, including their role in drug responses. However, many of the interactions that occur in vivo
in the intact microenvironment cannot be completely replicated in these in vitro
settings. Thus, direct visualization of these processes in real-time has become an important tool in understanding tumor responses to therapies and identifying the interactions between cancer cells and the stroma that can influence these responses. Here we provide a method for using spinning disk confocal microscopy of live, anesthetized mice to directly observe drug distribution, cancer cell responses and changes in tumor-stroma interactions following administration of systemic therapy in breast cancer models. We describe procedures for labeling different tumor components, treatment of animals for observing therapeutic responses, and the surgical procedure for exposing tumor tissues for imaging up to 40 hours. The results obtained from this protocol are time-lapse movies, in which such processes as drug infiltration, cancer cell death and stromal cell migration can be evaluated using image analysis software.
Cancer Biology, Issue 73, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Genetics, Oncology, Pharmacology, Surgery, Tumor Microenvironment, Intravital imaging, chemotherapy, Breast cancer, time-lapse, mouse models, cancer cell death, stromal cell migration, cancer, imaging, transgenic, animal model
An Orthotopic Murine Model of Human Prostate Cancer Metastasis
Institutions: Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Northwestern University.
Our laboratory has developed a novel orthotopic implantation model of human prostate cancer (PCa). As PCa death is not due to the primary tumor, but rather the formation of distinct metastasis, the ability to effectively model this progression pre-clinically is of high value. In this model, cells are directly implanted into the ventral lobe of the prostate in Balb/c athymic mice, and allowed to progress for 4-6 weeks. At experiment termination, several distinct endpoints can be measured, such as size and molecular characterization of the primary tumor, the presence and quantification of circulating tumor cells in the blood and bone marrow, and formation of metastasis to the lung. In addition to a variety of endpoints, this model provides a picture of a cells ability to invade and escape the primary organ, enter and survive in the circulatory system, and implant and grow in a secondary site. This model has been used effectively to measure metastatic response to both changes in protein expression as well as to response to small molecule therapeutics, in a short turnaround time.
Medicine, Issue 79, Urogenital System, Male Urogenital Diseases, Surgical Procedures, Operative, Life Sciences (General), Prostate Cancer, Metastasis, Mouse Model, Drug Discovery, Molecular Biology
Ex Vivo Treatment Response of Primary Tumors and/or Associated Metastases for Preclinical and Clinical Development of Therapeutics
Institutions: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The molecular analysis of established cancer cell lines has been the mainstay of cancer research for the past several decades. Cell culture provides both direct and rapid analysis of therapeutic sensitivity and resistance. However, recent evidence suggests that therapeutic response is not exclusive to the inherent molecular composition of cancer cells but rather is greatly influenced by the tumor cell microenvironment, a feature that cannot be recapitulated by traditional culturing methods. Even implementation of tumor xenografts, though providing a wealth of information on drug delivery/efficacy, cannot capture the tumor cell/microenvironment crosstalk (i.e.
, soluble factors) that occurs within human tumors and greatly impacts tumor response. To this extent, we have developed an ex vivo
(fresh tissue sectioning) technique which allows for the direct assessment of treatment response for preclinical and clinical therapeutics development. This technique maintains tissue integrity and cellular architecture within the tumor cell/microenvironment context throughout treatment response providing a more precise means to assess drug efficacy.
Cancer Biology, Issue 92, Ex vivo sectioning, Treatment response, Sensitivity/Resistance, Drug development, Patient tumors, Preclinical and Clinical
Culturing and Applications of Rotating Wall Vessel Bioreactor Derived 3D Epithelial Cell Models
Institutions: University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix.
Cells and tissues in the body experience environmental conditions that influence their architecture, intercellular communications, and overall functions. For in vitro
cell culture models to accurately mimic the tissue of interest, the growth environment of the culture is a critical aspect to consider. Commonly used conventional cell culture systems propagate epithelial cells on flat two-dimensional (2-D) impermeable surfaces. Although much has been learned from conventional cell culture systems, many findings are not reproducible in human clinical trials or tissue explants, potentially as a result of the lack of a physiologically relevant microenvironment.
Here, we describe a culture system that overcomes many of the culture condition boundaries of 2-D cell cultures, by using the innovative rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor technology. We and others have shown that organotypic RWV-derived models can recapitulate structure, function, and authentic human responses to external stimuli similarly to human explant tissues 1-6
. The RWV bioreactor is a suspension culture system that allows for the growth of epithelial cells under low physiological fluid shear conditions. The bioreactors come in two different formats, a high-aspect rotating vessel (HARV) or a slow-turning lateral vessel (STLV), in which they differ by their aeration source. Epithelial cells are added to the bioreactor of choice in combination with porous, collagen-coated microcarrier beads (Figure 1A)
. The cells utilize the beads as a growth scaffold during the constant free fall in the bioreactor (Figure 1B)
. The microenvironment provided by the bioreactor allows the cells to form three-dimensional (3-D) aggregates displaying in vivo-
like characteristics often not observed under standard 2-D culture conditions (Figure 1D)
. These characteristics include tight junctions, mucus production, apical/basal orientation, in vivo
protein localization, and additional epithelial cell-type specific properties.
The progression from a monolayer of epithelial cells to a fully differentiated 3-D aggregate varies based on cell type1, 7-13
. Periodic sampling from the bioreactor allows for monitoring of epithelial aggregate formation, cellular differentiation markers and viability (Figure 1D)
. Once cellular differentiation and aggregate formation is established, the cells are harvested from the bioreactor, and similar assays performed on 2-D cells can be applied to the 3-D aggregates with a few considerations (Figure 1E-G)
. In this work, we describe detailed steps of how to culture 3-D epithelial cell aggregates in the RWV bioreactor system and a variety of potential assays and analyses that can be executed with the 3-D aggregates. These analyses include, but are not limited to, structural/morphological analysis (confocal, scanning and transmission electron microscopy), cytokine/chemokine secretion and cell signaling (cytometric bead array and Western blot analysis), gene expression analysis (real-time PCR), toxicological/drug analysis and host-pathogen interactions. The utilization of these assays set the foundation for more in-depth and expansive studies such as metabolomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and other array-based applications. Our goal is to present a non-conventional means of culturing human epithelial cells to produce organotypic 3-D models that recapitulate the human in vivo
tissue, in a facile and robust system to be used by researchers with diverse scientific interests.
Cellular Biology, Issue 62, Rotating wall vessel bioreactor, female reproductive tract, human epithelial cells, three-dimensional in vitro cell culture, organotypic mucosal models, vaginal epithelial cells, microbicide, herpes simplex virus, toxicology, host-pathogen interactions, hormone receptors
Longitudinal Measurement of Extracellular Matrix Rigidity in 3D Tumor Models Using Particle-tracking Microrheology
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Boston.
The mechanical microenvironment has been shown to act as a crucial regulator of tumor growth behavior and signaling, which is itself remodeled and modified as part of a set of complex, two-way mechanosensitive interactions. While the development of biologically-relevant 3D tumor models have facilitated mechanistic studies on the impact of matrix rheology on tumor growth, the inverse problem of mapping changes in the mechanical environment induced by tumors remains challenging. Here, we describe the implementation of particle-tracking microrheology (PTM) in conjunction with 3D models of pancreatic cancer as part of a robust and viable approach for longitudinally monitoring physical changes in the tumor microenvironment, in situ
. The methodology described here integrates a system of preparing in vitro
3D models embedded in a model extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold of Type I collagen with fluorescently labeled probes uniformly distributed for position- and time-dependent microrheology measurements throughout the specimen. In vitro
tumors are plated and probed in parallel conditions using multiwell imaging plates. Drawing on established methods, videos of tracer probe movements are transformed via the Generalized Stokes Einstein Relation (GSER) to report the complex frequency-dependent viscoelastic shear modulus, G*(ω)
. Because this approach is imaging-based, mechanical characterization is also mapped onto large transmitted-light spatial fields to simultaneously report qualitative changes in 3D tumor size and phenotype. Representative results showing contrasting mechanical response in sub-regions associated with localized invasion-induced matrix degradation as well as system calibration, validation data are presented. Undesirable outcomes from common experimental errors and troubleshooting of these issues are also presented. The 96-well 3D culture plating format implemented in this protocol is conducive to correlation of microrheology measurements with therapeutic screening assays or molecular imaging to gain new insights into impact of treatments or biochemical stimuli on the mechanical microenvironment.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, viscoelasticity, mechanobiology, extracellular matrix (ECM), matrix remodeling, 3D tumor models, tumor microenvironment, stroma, matrix metalloprotease (MMP), epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ
hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
Isolation of Mammary Epithelial Cells from Three-dimensional Mixed-cell Spheroid Co-culture
Institutions: Tufts Medical Center.
While enormous efforts have gone into identifying signaling pathways and molecules involved in normal and malignant cell behaviors1-2
, much of this work has been done using classical two-dimensional cell culture models, which allow for easy cell manipulation. It has become clear that intracellular signaling pathways are affected by extracellular forces, including dimensionality and cell surface tension3-4
. Multiple approaches have been taken to develop three-dimensional models that more accurately represent biologic tissue architecture3
. While these models incorporate multi-dimensionality and architectural stresses, study of the consequent effects on cells is less facile than in two-dimensional tissue culture due to the limitations of the models and the difficulty in extracting cells for subsequent analysis.
The important role of the microenvironment around tumors in tumorigenesis and tumor behavior is becoming increasingly recognized4
. Tumor stroma is composed of multiple cell types and extracellular molecules. During tumor development there are bidirectional signals between tumor cells and stromal cells5
. Although some factors participating in tumor-stroma co-evolution have been identified, there is still a need to develop simple techniques to systematically identify and study the full array of these signals6
. Fibroblasts are the most abundant cell type in normal or tumor-associated stromal tissues, and contribute to deposition and maintenance of basement membrane and paracrine growth factors7
Many groups have used three dimensional culture systems to study the role of fibroblasts on various cellular functions, including tumor response to therapies, recruitment of immune cells, signaling molecules, proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and invasion8-15
. We have optimized a simple method for assessing the effects of mammary fibroblasts on mammary epithelial cells using a commercially available extracellular matrix model to create three-dimensional cultures of mixed cell populations (co-cultures)16-22
. With continued co-culture the cells form spheroids with the fibroblasts clustering in the interior and the epithelial cells largely on the exterior of the spheroids and forming multi-cellular projections into the matrix. Manipulation of the fibroblasts that leads to altered epithelial cell invasiveness can be readily quantified by changes in numbers and length of epithelial projections23
. Furthermore, we have devised a method for isolating epithelial cells out of three-dimensional co-culture that facilitates analysis of the effects of fibroblast exposure on epithelial behavior. We have found that the effects of co-culture persist for weeks after epithelial cell isolation, permitting ample time to perform multiple assays. This method is adaptable to cells of varying malignant potential and requires no specialized equipment. This technique allows for rapid evaluation of in vitro cell models under multiple conditions, and the corresponding results can be compared to in vivo
animal tissue models as well as human tissue samples.
Molecular Biology, Issue 62, Tumor microenvironment, extracellular matrix, three-dimensional, co-culture, spheroid, mixed-cell, cell culture
Optimization of High Grade Glioma Cell Culture from Surgical Specimens for Use in Clinically Relevant Animal Models and 3D Immunochemistry
Institutions: Henry Ford Hospital.
Glioblastomas, the most common and aggressive form of astrocytoma, are refractory to therapy, and molecularly heterogeneous. The ability to establish cell cultures that preserve the genomic profile of the parental tumors, for use in patient specific in vitro
and in vivo
models, has the potential to revolutionize the preclinical development of new treatments for glioblastoma tailored to the molecular characteristics of each tumor.
Starting with fresh high grade astrocytoma tumors dissociated into single cells, we use the neurosphere assay as an enrichment method for cells presenting cancer stem cell phenotype, including expression of neural stem cell markers, long term self-renewal in vitro
, and the ability to form orthotopic xenograft tumors. This method has been previously proposed, and is now in use by several investigators. Based on our experience of dissociating and culturing 125 glioblastoma specimens, we arrived at the detailed protocol we present here, suitable for routine neurosphere culturing of high grade astrocytomas and large scale expansion of tumorigenic cells for preclinical studies. We report on the efficiency of successful long term cultures using this protocol and suggest affordable alternatives for culturing dissociated glioblastoma cells that fail to grow as neurospheres. We also describe in detail a protocol for preserving the neurospheres 3D architecture for immunohistochemistry. Cell cultures enriched in CSCs, capable of generating orthotopic xenograft models that preserve the molecular signatures and heterogeneity of GBMs, are becoming increasingly popular for the study of the biology of GBMs and for the improved design of preclinical testing of potential therapies.
Medicine, Issue 83, Primary Cell Culture, animal models, Nervous System Diseases, Neoplasms, glioblastoma, neurosphere, surgical specimens, long-term self-renewal
Assessment of Ovarian Cancer Spheroid Attachment and Invasion of Mesothelial Cells in Real Time
Institutions: MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, Monash University.
Ovarian cancers metastasize by shedding into the peritoneal fluid and dispersing to distal sites within the peritoneum. Monolayer cultures do not accurately model the behaviors of cancer cells within a nonadherent environment, as cancer cells inherently aggregate into multicellular structures which contribute to the metastatic process by attaching to and invading the peritoneal lining to form secondary tumors. To model this important stage of ovarian cancer metastasis, multicellular aggregates, or spheroids, can be generated from established ovarian cancer cell lines maintained under nonadherent conditions. To mimic the peritoneal microenvironment encountered by tumor cells in vivo
, a spheroid-mesothelial co-culture model was established in which preformed spheroids are plated on top of a human mesothelial cell monolayer, formed over an extracellular matrix barrier. Methods were then developed using a real-time cell analyzer to conduct quantitative real time measurements of the invasive capacity of different ovarian cancer cell lines grown as spheroids. This approach allows for the continuous measurement of invasion over long periods of time, which has several advantages over traditional endpoint assays and more laborious real time microscopy image analyses. In short, this method enables a rapid, determination of factors which regulate the interactions between ovarian cancer spheroid cells invading through mesothelial and matrix barriers over time.
Medicine, Issue 87, Ovarian cancer, metastasis, invasion, mesothelial cells, spheroids, real time analysis
Human Neuroendocrine Tumor Cell Lines as a Three-Dimensional Model for the Study of Human Neuroendocrine Tumor Therapy
Institutions: Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.
Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are rare tumors, with an incidence of two per 100, 000 individuals per year, and they account for 0.5% of all human malignancies.1
Other than surgery for the minority of patients who present with localized disease, there is little or no survival benefit of systemic therapy. Therefore, there is a great need to better understand the biology of NETs, and in particular define new therapeutic targets for patients with nonresectable or metastatic neuroendocrine tumors. 3D cell culture is becoming a popular method for drug screening due to its relevance in modeling the in vivo
tumor tissue organization and microenvironment.2,3
The 3D multicellular spheroids could provide valuable information in a more timely and less expensive manner than directly proceeding from 2D cell culture experiments to animal (murine) models.
To facilitate the discovery of new therapeutics for NET patients, we have developed an in vitro
3D multicellular spheroids model using the human NET cell lines. The NET cells are plated in a non-adhesive agarose-coated 24-well plate and incubated under physiological conditions (5% CO2
, 37 °C) with a very slow agitation for 16-24 hr after plating. The cells form multicellular spheroids starting on the 3rd
day. The spheroids become more spherical by the 6th
day, at which point the drug treatments are initiated. The efficacy of the drug treatments on the NET spheroids is monitored based on the morphology, shape and size of the spheroids with a phase-contrast light microscope. The size of the spheroids is estimated automatically using a custom-developed MATLAB program based on an active contour algorithm. Further, we demonstrate a simple method to process the HistoGel embedding on these 3D spheroids, allowing the use of standard histological and immunohistochemical techniques.
This is the first report on generating 3D spheroids using NET cell lines to examine the effect of therapeutic drugs. We have also performed histology on these 3D spheroids, and displayed an example of a single drug's effect on growth and proliferation of the NET spheroids. Our results support that the NET spheroids are valuable for further studies of NET biology and drug development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Neuroscience, Cell Culture, Tissue Engineering, 3D model, multicellular spheroids, therapeutic drugs, neuroendocrine tumor cell lines, agarose overlay platform, paraffin embedding
Heterotypic Three-dimensional In Vitro Modeling of Stromal-Epithelial Interactions During Ovarian Cancer Initiation and Progression
Institutions: University of Southern California, University College London.
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOCs) are the leading cause of death from gynecological malignancy in Western societies. Despite advances in surgical treatments and improved platinum-based chemotherapies, there has been little improvement in EOC survival rates for more than four decades 1,2
. Whilst stage I tumors have 5-year survival rates >85%, survival rates for stage III/IV disease are <40%. Thus, the high rates of mortality for EOC could be significantly decreased if tumors were detected at earlier, more treatable, stages 3-5
. At present, the molecular genetic and biological basis of early stage disease development is poorly understood. More specifically, little is known about the role of the microenvironment during tumor initiation; but known risk factors for EOCs (e.g.
age and parity) suggest that the microenvironment plays a key role in the early genesis of EOCs. We therefore developed three-dimensional heterotypic models of both the normal ovary and of early stage ovarian cancers. For the normal ovary, we co-cultured normal ovarian surface epithelial (IOSE) and normal stromal fibroblast (INOF) cells, immortalized by retrovrial transduction of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase holoenzyme (hTERT
) to extend the lifespan of these cells in culture. To model the earliest stages of ovarian epithelial cell transformation, overexpression of the CMYC
oncogene in IOSE cells, again co-cultured with INOF cells. These heterotypic models were used to investigate the effects of aging and senescence on the transformation and invasion of epithelial cells. Here we describe the methodological steps in development of these three-dimensional model; these methodologies aren't specific to the development of normal ovary and ovarian cancer tissues, and could be used to study other tissue types where stromal and epithelial cell interactions are a fundamental aspect of the tissue maintenance and disease development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Tissue Engineering, three-dimensional cultures, stromal-epithelial interactions, epithelial ovarian cancer, ovarian surface epithelium, ovarian fibroblasts, tumor initiation
Spheroid Assay to Measure TGF-β-induced Invasion
Institutions: Leiden University Medical Centre.
TGF-β has opposing roles in breast cancer progression by acting as a tumor suppressor in the initial phase, but stimulating invasion and metastasis at later stage1,2
. Moreover, TGF-β is frequently overexpressed in breast cancer and its expression correlates with poor prognosis and metastasis 3,4
. The mechanisms by which TGF-β induces invasion are not well understood.
TGF-β elicits its cellular responses via TGF-β type II (TβRII) and type I (TβRI) receptors. Upon TGF-β-induced heteromeric complex formation, TβRII phosphorylates the TβRI. The activated TβRI initiates its intracellular canonical signaling pathway by phosphorylating receptor Smads (R-Smads), i.e. Smad2 and Smad3. These activated R-Smads form heteromeric complexes with Smad4, which accumulate in the nucleus and regulate the transcription of target genes5
. In addition to the previously described Smad pathway, receptor activation results in activation of several other non-Smad signaling pathways, for example Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) pathways6
To study the role of TGF-β in different stages of breast cancer, we made use of the MCF10A cell system. This system consists of spontaneously immortalized MCF10A1 (M1) breast epithelial cells7
, the H-RAS transformed M1-derivative MCF10AneoT (M2), which produces premalignant lesions in mice8
, and the M2-derivative MCF10CA1a (M4), which was established from M2 xenografts and forms high grade carcinomas with the ability to metastasize to the lung9
. This MCF10A series offers the possibility to study the responses of cells with different grades of malignancy that are not biased by a different genetic background.
For the analysis of TGF-β-induced invasion, we generated homotypic MCF10A spheroid cell cultures embedded in a 3D collagen matrix in vitro
(Fig 1). Such models closely resemble human tumors in vivo
by establishing a gradient of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in active and invasive cells on the outside and quiescent or even necrotic cells in the inside of the spheroid10
. Spheroid based assays have also been shown to better recapitulate drug resistance than monolayer cultures11
. This MCF10 3D model system allowed us to investigate the impact of TGF-β signaling on the invasive properties of breast cells in different stages of malignancy.
Medicine, Issue 57, TGF-β, TGF, breast cancer, assay, invasion, collagen, spheroids, oncology
In vitro Mesothelial Clearance Assay that Models the Early Steps of Ovarian Cancer Metastasis
Institutions: Harvard Medical School.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States1
. Despite a positive initial response to therapies, 70 to 90 percent of women with ovarian cancer develop new metastases, and the recurrence is often fatal2
. It is, therefore, necessary to understand how secondary metastases arise in order to develop better treatments for intermediate and late stage ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer metastasis occurs when malignant cells detach from the primary tumor site and disseminate throughout the peritoneal cavity. The disseminated cells can form multicellular clusters, or spheroids, that will either remain unattached, or implant onto organs within the peritoneal cavity3
(Figure 1, Movie 1).
All of the organs within the peritoneal cavity are lined with a single, continuous, layer of mesothelial cells4-6
(Figure 2). However, mesothelial cells are absent from underneath peritoneal tumor masses, as revealed by electron micrograph studies of excised human tumor tissue sections3,5-7
(Figure 2). This suggests that mesothelial cells are excluded from underneath the tumor mass by an unknown process.
Previous in vitro
experiments demonstrated that primary ovarian cancer cells attach more efficiently to extracellular matrix than to mesothelial cells8
, and more recent studies showed that primary peritoneal mesothelial cells actually provide a barrier to ovarian cancer cell adhesion and invasion (as compared to adhesion and invasion on substrates that were not covered with mesothelial cells)9,10
. This would suggest that mesothelial cells act as a barrier against ovarian cancer metastasis. The cellular and molecular mechanisms by which ovarian cancer cells breach this barrier, and exclude the mesothelium have, until recently, remained unknown.
Here we describe the methodology for an in vitro
assay that models the interaction between ovarian cancer cell spheroids and mesothelial cells in vivo
(Figure 3, Movie 2). Our protocol was adapted from previously described methods for analyzing ovarian tumor cell interactions with mesothelial monolayers8-16
, and was first described in a report showing that ovarian tumor cells utilize an integrin –dependent activation of myosin and traction force to promote the exclusion of the mesothelial cells from under a tumor spheroid17
. This model takes advantage of time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to monitor the two cell populations in real time, providing spatial and temporal information on the interaction. The ovarian cancer cells express red fluorescent protein (RFP) while the mesothelial cells express green fluorescent protein (GFP). RFP-expressing ovarian cancer cell spheroids attach to the GFP-expressing mesothelial monolayer. The spheroids spread, invade, and force the mesothelial cells aside creating a hole in the monolayer. This hole is visualized as the negative space (black) in the GFP image. The area of the hole can then be measured to quantitatively analyze differences in clearance activity between control and experimental populations of ovarian cancer and/ or mesothelial cells. This assay requires only a small number of ovarian cancer cells (100 cells per spheroid X 20-30 spheroids per condition), so it is feasible to perform this assay using precious primary tumor cell samples. Furthermore, this assay can be easily adapted for high throughput screening.
Medicine, Issue 60, Ovarian Cancer, Metastasis, In vitro Model, Mesothelial, Spheroid
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Analysis of Cell Migration within a Three-dimensional Collagen Matrix
Institutions: Witten/Herdecke University.
The ability to migrate is a hallmark of various cell types and plays a crucial role in several physiological processes, including embryonic development, wound healing, and immune responses. However, cell migration is also a key mechanism in cancer enabling these cancer cells to detach from the primary tumor to start metastatic spreading. Within the past years various cell migration assays have been developed to analyze the migratory behavior of different cell types. Because the locomotory behavior of cells markedly differs between a two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) environment it can be assumed that the analysis of the migration of cells that are embedded within a 3D environment would yield in more significant cell migration data. The advantage of the described 3D collagen matrix migration assay is that cells are embedded within a physiological 3D network of collagen fibers representing the major component of the extracellular matrix. Due to time-lapse video microscopy real cell migration is measured allowing the determination of several migration parameters as well as their alterations in response to pro-migratory factors or inhibitors. Various cell types could be analyzed using this technique, including lymphocytes/leukocytes, stem cells, and tumor cells. Likewise, also cell clusters or spheroids could be embedded within the collagen matrix concomitant with analysis of the emigration of single cells from the cell cluster/ spheroid into the collagen lattice. We conclude that the 3D collagen matrix migration assay is a versatile method to analyze the migration of cells within a physiological-like 3D environment.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cell migration, 3D collagen matrix, cell tracking
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
A Simple Hanging Drop Cell Culture Protocol for Generation of 3D Spheroids
Institutions: UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Studies of cell-cell cohesion and cell-substratum adhesion have historically been performed on monolayer cultures adherent to rigid substrates. Cells within a tissue, however, are typically encased within a closely packed tissue mass in which cells establish intimate connections with many near-neighbors and with extracellular matrix components. Accordingly, the chemical milieu and physical forces experienced by cells within a 3D tissue are fundamentally different than those experienced by cells grown in monolayer culture. This has been shown to markedly impact cellular morphology and signaling. Several methods have been devised to generate 3D cell cultures including encapsulation of cells in collagen gels1
or in biomaterial scaffolds2
. Such methods, while useful, do not recapitulate the intimate direct cell-cell adhesion architecture found in normal tissues. Rather, they more closely approximate culture systems in which single cells are loosely dispersed within a 3D meshwork of ECM products. Here, we describe a simple method in which cells are placed in hanging drop culture and incubated under physiological conditions until they form true 3D spheroids in which cells are in direct contact with each other and with extracellular matrix components. The method requires no specialized equipment and can be adapted to include addition of any biological agent in very small quantities that may be of interest in elucidating effects on cell-cell or cell-ECM interaction. The method can also be used to co-culture two (or more) different cell populations so as to elucidate the role of cell-cell or cell-ECM interactions in specifying spatial relationships between cells. Cell-cell cohesion and cell-ECM adhesion are the cornerstones of studies of embryonic development, tumor-stromal cell interaction in malignant invasion, wound healing, and for applications to tissue engineering. This simple method will provide a means of generating tissue-like cellular aggregates for measurement of biomechanical properties or for molecular and biochemical analysis in a physiologically relevant model.
Bioengineering, Issue 51, 3D, hanging drop cultures, cell sorting-out, differential adhesion
Interview: Bioreactors and Surfaced-Modified 3D-Scaffolds for Stem Cell Research
Institutions: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
A Nature Editorial in 2003 asked the question "Good-bye, flat biology?" What does this question imply? In the past, many in vitro culture systems, mainly monolayer cultures, often suffered from the disadvantage that differentiated primary cells had a relatively short life-span and de-differentiated during culture. As a consequence, most of their organ-specific functions were lost rapidly. Thus, in order to reproduce better conditions for these cells in vitro, modifications and adaptations have been made to conventional monolayer cultures.
The last generation of CellChips -- micro-thermoformed containers -- a specific technology was developed, which offers the additional possibility to modify the whole surface of the 3D formed containers. This allows a surface-patterning on a submicron scale with distinct signalling molecules. Sensors and signal electrodes may be incorporated. Applications range from basic research in cell biology to toxicology and pharmacology. Using biodegradable polymers, clinical applications become a possibility. Furthermore, the last generation of micro-thermoformed chips has been optimized to allow for cheap mass production.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Interview, bioreactors, cell culture systems, 3D cell culture, stem cells