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Open Access Highly Accessed Primary research

Increasingly transformed MCF-10A cells have a progressively tumor-like phenotype in three-dimensional basement membrane culture

Karen M Imbalzano, Iva Tatarkova, Anthony N Imbalzano* and Jeffrey A Nickerson*

Author Affiliations

Department of Cell Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA

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Cancer Cell International 2009, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1475-2867-9-7

Published: 16 March 2009

Abstract

Background

MCF-10A cells are near diploid and normal human mammary epithelial cells. In three-dimensional reconstituted basement membrane culture, they undergo a well-defined program of proliferation, differentiation, and growth arrest, forming acinar structures that recapitulate many aspects of mammary architecture in vivo. The pre-malignant MCF-10AT cells and malignant MCF-10CA1a lines were sequentially derived from the MCF-10A parental cell line first by expression of a constitutively active T24 H-Ras generating the MCF-10AT cell line. This was followed by repeated selection for increasingly aggressive tumor formation from cells recovered from xenograft tumors in immuno-compromised mice, generating the MCF-10CA1a cell line. When inoculated subcutaneously into the flanks of immuno-compromised mice, MCF-10AT cells occasionally form tumors, whereas MCF-10CA1a cells invariably form tumors with a shorter latency than MCF-10AT derived tumors.

Results

MCF-10AT cells grown in three-dimensional basement membrane culture form complex multi-acinar structures that produce a basement membrane but undergo delayed cell cycle arrest and have incomplete luminal development. MCF-10CA1a cells grown in three-dimensional basement membrane culture form large, hyper-proliferative masses, that retain few characteristics of MCF10A acini and more closely resemble tumors.

Conclusion

Here we report on the growth and differentiation properties of these three matched cell lines in three-dimensional basement membrane culture. Features of tissue morphogenesis were assessed, including proliferation, basement membrane formation, polarization of alpha-6 beta-4 integrin to the basement membrane, formation of cell:cell junctions, and apoptosis for luminal clearance. The matched series of normal MCF-10A, pre-malignant MCF-10AT, and malignant MCF-10CA1a cells offers a unique opportunity to study the mechanisms of malignant progression both in a three-dimensional microenvironment and in the same cell background.