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Identifying Molecular Signatures of Distinct Modes of Collective Migration in Response to the Microenvironment Using Three-Dimensional Breast Cancer Models

Ardila, Diana Catalina and Aggarwal, Vaishali and Singh, Manjulata and Chattopadhyay, Ansuman and Chaparala, Srilakshmi and Sant, Shilpa (2021) Identifying Molecular Signatures of Distinct Modes of Collective Migration in Response to the Microenvironment Using Three-Dimensional Breast Cancer Models. Cancers, 13 (6). p. 1429. ISSN 2072-6694

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Collective cell migration is a key feature of transition of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) among many other cancers, yet the microenvironmental factors and underlying mechanisms that trigger collective migration remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated two microenvironmental factors, tumor-intrinsic hypoxia and tumor-secreted factors (secretome), as triggers of collective migration using three-dimensional (3D) discrete-sized microtumor models that recapitulate hallmarks of DCIS-IDC transition. Interestingly, the two factors induced two distinct modes of collective migration: directional and radial migration in the 3D microtumors generated from the same breast cancer cell line model, T47D. Without external stimulus, large (600 µm) T47D microtumors exhibited tumor-intrinsic hypoxia and directional migration, while small (150 µm), non-hypoxic microtumors exhibited radial migration only when exposed to the secretome of large microtumors. To investigate the mechanisms underlying hypoxia- and secretome-induced directional vs. radial migration modes, we performed differential gene expression analysis of hypoxia- and secretome-induced migratory microtumors compared with non-hypoxic, non-migratory small microtumors as controls. We propose unique gene signature sets related to tumor-intrinsic hypoxia, hypoxia-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), as well as hypoxia-induced directional migration and secretome-induced radial migration. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) and protein-protein interaction (PPI) network analysis revealed enrichment and potential interaction between hypoxia, EMT, and migration gene signatures for the hypoxia-induced directional migration. In contrast, hypoxia and EMT were not enriched in the secretome-induced radial migration, suggesting that complete EMT may not be required for radial migration. Survival analysis identified unique genes associated with low survival rate and poor prognosis in TCGA-breast invasive carcinoma dataset from our tumor-intrinsic hypoxia gene signature (CXCR4, FOXO3, LDH, NDRG1), hypoxia-induced EMT gene signature (EFEMP2, MGP), and directional migration gene signature (MAP3K3, PI3K3R3). NOS3 was common between hypoxia and migration gene signature. Survival analysis from secretome-induced radial migration identified ATM, KCNMA1 (hypoxia gene signature), and KLF4, IFITM1, EFNA1, TGFBR1 (migration gene signature) to be associated with poor survival rate. In conclusion, our unique 3D cultures with controlled microenvironments respond to different microenvironmental factors, tumor-intrinsic hypoxia, and secretome by adopting distinct collective migration modes and their gene expression analysis highlights the phenotypic heterogeneity and plasticity of epithelial cancer cells.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ardila, Diana Catalinadca18@pitt.edudca18
Aggarwal, Vaishalivaa30@pitt.eduvaa30
Singh, Manjulata
Chattopadhyay, Ansumanansuman@pitt.eduansuman
Chaparala, Srilakshmichapa28@pitt.educhapa28
Sant, Shilpashs149@pitt.edushs149
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Date: 20 March 2021
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Cancers
Volume: 13
Number: 6
Publisher: MDPI AG
Page Range: p. 1429
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3390/cancers13061429
Schools and Programs: School of Pharmacy > Pharmaceutical Sciences
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: tumor microenvironment, tumor-intrinsic hypoxia, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), collective migration, three-dimensional cultures, microtumors, microarray
ISSN: 2072-6694
Official URL:
Funders: National Institute of Health
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2021 17:30
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 17:30


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