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.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
Modeling and Imaging 3-Dimensional Collective Cell Invasion
Institutions: University of Strathclyde , The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research.
A defining characteristic of cancer malignancy is invasion and metastasis 1
. In some cancers (e.g
. glioma 2
), local invasion into surrounding healthy tissue is the root cause of disease and death. For other cancers (e.g
. breast, lung, etc
.), it is the process of metastasis, in which tumor cells move from a primary tumor mass, colonize distal sites and ultimately contribute to organ failure, that eventually leads to morbidity and mortality 3
. It has been estimated that invasion and metastasis are responsible for 90% of cancer deaths 4
. As a result, there has been intense interest in identifying the molecular processes and critical protein mediators of invasion and metastasis for the purposes of improving diagnosis and treatment 5
A challenge for cancer scientists is to develop invasion assays that sufficiently resemble the in vivo
situation to enable accurate disease modeling 6
. Two-dimensional cell motility assays are only informative about one aspect of invasion and do not take into account extracellular matrix (ECM) protein remodeling which is also a critical element. Recently, research has refined our understanding of tumor cell invasion and revealed that individual cells may move by elongated or rounded modes 7
. In addition, there has been greater appreciation of the contribution of collective invasion, in which cells invade in strands, sheets and clusters, particularly in highly differentiated tumors that maintain epithelial characteristics, to the spread of cancer 8
We present a refined method 9
for examining the contributions of candidate proteins to collective invasion 10
. In particular, by engineering separate pools of cells to express different fluorescent proteins, it is possible to molecularly dissect the activities and proteins required in leading cells versus those required in following cells. The use of RNAi provides the molecular tool to experimentally disassemble the processes involved in individual cell invasion as well as in different positions of collective invasion. In this procedure, mixtures of fluorescently-labeled cells are plated on the bottom of a Transwell insert previously filled with Matrigel ECM protein, then allowed to invade "upwards" through the filter and into the Matrigel. Reconstruction of z-series image stacks, obtained by confocal imaging, into three-dimensional representations allows for visualization of collectively invading strands and analysis of the representation of fluorescently-labeled cells in leading versus following positions.
Medicine, Issue 58, cancer, cell invasion, imaging, retroviral labeling, RNAi, 3D, Matrix, Matrigel, ECM
MAME Models for 4D Live-cell Imaging of Tumor: Microenvironment Interactions that Impact Malignant Progression
Institutions: Wayne State University , Wayne State University .
We have developed 3D coculture models, which we term MAME (m
rchitecture and m
ngineering), and used them for live-cell imaging in real-time of cell:cell interactions. Our overall goal was to develop models that recapitulate the architecture of preinvasive breast lesions to study their progression to an invasive phenotype. Specifically, we developed models to analyze interactions among pre-malignant breast epithelial cell variants and other cell types of the tumor microenvironment that have been implicated in enhancing or reducing the progression of preinvasive breast epithelial cells to invasive ductal carcinomas. Other cell types studied to date are myoepithelial cells, fibroblasts, macrophages and blood and lymphatic microvascular endothelial cells. In addition to the MAME models, which are designed to recapitulate the cellular interactions within the breast during cancer progression, we have developed comparable models for the progression of prostate cancers.
Here we illustrate the procedures for establishing the 3D cocultures along with the use of live-cell imaging and a functional proteolysis assay to follow the transition of cocultures of breast ductal carcinoma in situ
(DCIS) cells and fibroblasts to an invasive phenotype over time, in this case over twenty-three days in culture. The MAME cocultures consist of multiple layers. Fibroblasts are embedded in the bottom layer of type I collagen. On that is placed a layer of reconstituted basement membrane (rBM) on which DCIS cells are seeded. A final top layer of 2% rBM is included and replenished with every change of media. To image proteolysis associated with the progression to an invasive phenotype, we use dye-quenched (DQ) fluorescent matrix proteins (DQ-collagen I mixed with the layer of collagen I and DQ-collagen IV mixed with the middle layer of rBM) and observe live cultures using confocal microscopy. Optical sections are captured, processed and reconstructed in 3D with Volocity visualization software. Over the course of 23 days in MAME cocultures, the DCIS cells proliferate and coalesce into large invasive structures. Fibroblasts migrate and become incorporated into these invasive structures. Fluorescent proteolytic fragments of the collagens are found in association with the surface of DCIS structures, intracellularly, and also dispersed throughout the surrounding matrix. Drugs that target proteolytic, chemokine/cytokine and kinase pathways or modifications in the cellular composition of the cocultures can reduce the invasiveness, suggesting that MAME models can be used as preclinical screens for novel therapeutic approaches.
Medicine, Issue 60, Immunology, Breast, cancer, extracellular matrix, invasion, proteolysis, tumor microenvironment
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
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
Regioselective Biolistic Targeting in Organotypic Brain Slices Using a Modified Gene Gun
Institutions: University of Toronto, MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK.
Transfection of DNA has been invaluable for biological sciences and with recent advances to organotypic brain slice preparations, the effect of various heterologous genes could thus be investigated easily while maintaining many aspects of in vivo
biology. There has been increasing interest to transfect terminally differentiated neurons for which conventional transfection methods have been fraught with difficulties such as low yields and significant losses in viability. Biolistic transfection can circumvent many of these difficulties yet only recently has this technique been modified so that it is amenable for use in mammalian tissues.
New modifications to the accelerator chamber have enhanced the gene gun's firing accuracy and increased its depths of penetration while also allowing the use of lower gas pressure (50 psi) without loss of transfection efficiency as well as permitting a focused regioselective spread of the particles to within 3 mm. In addition, this technique is straight forward and faster to perform than tedious microinjections. Both transient and stable expression are possible with nanoparticle bombardment where episomal expression can be detected within 24 hr and the cell survival was shown to be better than, or at least equal to, conventional methods. This technique has however one crucial advantage: it permits the transfection to be localized within a single restrained radius thus enabling the user to anatomically isolate the heterologous gene's effects. Here we present an in-depth protocol to prepare viable adult organotypic slices and submit them to regioselective transfection using an improved gene gun.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, Biolistics, gene gun, organotypic brain slices, Diolistic, gene delivery, staining
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),
Strategies for Study of Neuroprotection from Cold-preconditioning
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Neurological injury is a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality from general anesthesia and related surgical procedures that could be alleviated by development of effective, easy to administer and safe preconditioning treatments. We seek to define the neural immune signaling responsible for cold-preconditioning as means to identify novel targets for therapeutics development to protect brain before injury onset. Low-level pro-inflammatory mediator signaling changes over time are essential for cold-preconditioning neuroprotection. This signaling is consistent with the basic tenets of physiological conditioning hormesis, which require that irritative stimuli reach a threshold magnitude with sufficient time for adaptation to the stimuli for protection to become evident.
Accordingly, delineation of the immune signaling involved in cold-preconditioning neuroprotection requires that biological systems and experimental manipulations plus technical capacities are highly reproducible and sensitive. Our approach is to use hippocampal slice cultures as an in vitro
model that closely reflects their in vivo
counterparts with multi-synaptic neural networks influenced by mature and quiescent macroglia / microglia. This glial state is particularly important for microglia since they are the principal source of cytokines, which are operative in the femtomolar range. Also, slice cultures can be maintained in vitro
for several weeks, which is sufficient time to evoke activating stimuli and assess adaptive responses. Finally, environmental conditions can be accurately controlled using slice cultures so that cytokine signaling of cold-preconditioning can be measured, mimicked, and modulated to dissect the critical node aspects. Cytokine signaling system analyses require the use of sensitive and reproducible multiplexed techniques. We use quantitative PCR for TNF-α to screen for microglial activation followed by quantitative real-time qPCR array screening to assess tissue-wide cytokine changes. The latter is a most sensitive and reproducible means to measure multiple cytokine system signaling changes simultaneously. Significant changes are confirmed with targeted qPCR and then protein detection. We probe for tissue-based cytokine protein changes using multiplexed microsphere flow cytometric assays using Luminex technology. Cell-specific cytokine production is determined with double-label immunohistochemistry. Taken together, this brain tissue preparation and style of use, coupled to the suggested investigative strategies, may be an optimal approach for identifying potential targets for the development of novel therapeutics that could mimic the advantages of cold-preconditioning.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, hippocampus, slice culture, immunohistochemistry, neural-immune, gene expression, real-time PCR
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
Creating Dynamic Images of Short-lived Dopamine Fluctuations with lp-ntPET: Dopamine Movies of Cigarette Smoking
Institutions: Yale University, Yale University, Yale University, Yale University, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of California, Irvine.
We describe experimental and statistical steps for creating dopamine movies of the brain from dynamic PET data. The movies represent minute-to-minute fluctuations of dopamine induced by smoking a cigarette. The smoker is imaged during a natural smoking experience while other possible confounding effects (such as head motion, expectation, novelty, or aversion to smoking repeatedly) are minimized.
We present the details of our unique analysis. Conventional methods for PET analysis estimate time-invariant kinetic model parameters which cannot capture short-term fluctuations in neurotransmitter release. Our analysis - yielding a dopamine movie - is based on our work with kinetic models and other decomposition techniques that allow for time-varying parameters 1-7
. This aspect of the analysis - temporal-variation - is key to our work. Because our model is also linear in parameters, it is practical, computationally, to apply at the voxel level. The analysis technique is comprised of five main steps: pre-processing, modeling, statistical comparison, masking and visualization. Preprocessing is applied to the PET data with a unique 'HYPR' spatial filter 8
that reduces spatial noise but preserves critical temporal information. Modeling identifies the time-varying function that best describes the dopamine effect on 11
C-raclopride uptake. The statistical step compares the fit of our (lp-ntPET) model 7
to a conventional model 9
. Masking restricts treatment to those voxels best described by the new model. Visualization maps the dopamine function at each voxel to a color scale and produces a dopamine movie. Interim results and sample dopamine movies of cigarette smoking are presented.
Behavior, Issue 78, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Receptors, Dopamine, Dopamine, Functional Neuroimaging, Binding, Competitive, mathematical modeling (systems analysis), Neurotransmission, transient, dopamine release, PET, modeling, linear, time-invariant, smoking, F-test, ventral-striatum, clinical techniques
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
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
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
Quantification of Breast Cancer Cell Invasiveness Using a Three-dimensional (3D) Model
Institutions: University of Western Ontario, University of Western Ontario, Lawson Health Research Institute.
It is now well known that the cellular and tissue microenvironment are critical regulators influencing tumor initiation and progression. Moreover, the extracellular matrix (ECM) has been demonstrated to be a critical regulator of cell behavior in culture and homeostasis in vivo
. The current approach of culturing cells on two-dimensional (2D), plastic surfaces results in the disturbance and loss of complex interactions between cells and their microenvironment. Through the use of three-dimensional (3D) culture assays, the conditions for cell-microenvironment interaction are established resembling the in vivo
microenvironment. This article provides a detailed methodology to grow breast cancer cells in a 3D basement membrane protein matrix, exemplifying the potential of 3D culture in the assessment of cell invasion into the surrounding environment. In addition, we discuss how these 3D assays have the potential to examine the loss of signaling molecules that regulate epithelial morphology by immunostaining procedures. These studies aid to identify important mechanistic details into the processes regulating invasion, required for the spread of breast cancer.
Medicine, Issue 88, Breast cancer, cell invasion, extracellular matrix (ECM), three-dimensional (3D) cultures, immunocytochemistry, Matrigel, basement membrane matrix
Three Dimensional Cultures: A Tool To Study Normal Acinar Architecture vs. Malignant Transformation Of Breast Cells
Institutions: University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Invasive breast carcinomas are a group of malignant epithelial tumors characterized by the invasion of adjacent tissues and propensity to metastasize. The interplay of signals between cancer cells and their microenvironment exerts a powerful influence on breast cancer growth and biological behavior1
. However, most of these signals from the extracellular matrix are lost or their relevance is understudied when cells are grown in two dimensional culture (2D) as a monolayer. In recent years, three dimensional (3D) culture on a reconstituted basement membrane has emerged as a method of choice to recapitulate the tissue architecture of benign and malignant breast cells. Cells grown in 3D retain the important cues from the extracellular matrix and provide a physiologically relevant ex vivo
. Of note, there is growing evidence suggesting that cells behave differently when grown in 3D as compared to 2D4
. 3D culture can be effectively used as a means to differentiate the malignant phenotype from the benign breast phenotype and for underpinning the cellular and molecular signaling involved3
. One of the distinguishing characteristics of benign epithelial cells is that they are polarized so that the apical cytoplasm is towards the lumen and the basal cytoplasm rests on the basement membrane. This apico-basal polarity is lost in invasive breast carcinomas, which are characterized by cellular disorganization and formation of anastomosing and branching tubules that haphazardly infiltrates the surrounding stroma. These histopathological differences between benign gland and invasive carcinoma can be reproduced in 3D6,7
. Using the appropriate read-outs like the quantitation of single round acinar structures, or differential expression of validated molecular markers for cell proliferation, polarity and apoptosis in combination with other molecular and cell biology techniques, 3D culture can provide an important tool to better understand the cellular changes during malignant transformation and for delineating the responsible signaling.
Medicine, Issue 86, pathological conditions, signs and symptoms, neoplasms, three dimensional cultures, Matrigel, breast cells, malignant phenotype, signaling
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
From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g.
, signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation.
The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+
release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
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)
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
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
Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
Using an Automated 3D-tracking System to Record Individual and Shoals of Adult Zebrafish
Like many aquatic animals, zebrafish (Danio rerio
) moves in a 3D space. It is thus preferable to use a 3D recording system to study its behavior. The presented automatic video tracking system accomplishes this by using a mirror system and a calibration procedure that corrects for the considerable error introduced by the transition of light from water to air. With this system it is possible to record both single and groups of adult zebrafish. Before use, the system has to be calibrated. The system consists of three modules: Recording, Path Reconstruction, and Data Processing. The step-by-step protocols for calibration and using the three modules are presented. Depending on the experimental setup, the system can be used for testing neophobia, white aversion, social cohesion, motor impairments, novel object exploration etc
. It is especially promising as a first-step tool to study the effects of drugs or mutations on basic behavioral patterns. The system provides information about vertical and horizontal distribution of the zebrafish, about the xyz-components of kinematic parameters (such as locomotion, velocity, acceleration, and turning angle) and it provides the data necessary to calculate parameters for social cohesions when testing shoals.
Behavior, Issue 82, neuroscience, Zebrafish, Danio rerio, anxiety, Shoaling, Pharmacology, 3D-tracking, MK801