Secretion of MCP-1 and other paracrine factors in a novel tumor-bone coculture model

Katherine R. Schiller, Marion R. Zillhardt, Jeremy Alley, Dori L. Borjesson, Alvin J. Beitz, Laura J. Mauro

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18 Scopus citations


Background: The bone-tumor microenvironment encompasses unique interactions between the normal cells of the bone and marrow cavity and the malignant cells from a primary or metastasized cancer. A multitude of paracrine factors within this microenvironment such as the growth factor, TGF-β, and the chemokine, MCP-1, are secreted by many of these cell types. These factors can act in concert to modulate normal and malignant cell proliferation, malignant cell migration and invasion and, often, mediate bone cancer pain. Although many valuable in vitro and in vivo models exist, identifying the relevant paracrine factors and deciphering their interactions is still a challenge. The aim of our study is to test an ex vivo coculture model that will allow monitoring of the expression, release and regulation of paracrine factors during interactions of an intact femur explant and tumor cells. Methods: Intact or marrow-depleted neonatal mouse femurs and select murine and human sarcoma or carcinoma cell lines were incubated singly or in coculture in specialized well plates. Viability of the bone and cells was determined by immunohistochemical stains, microscopy and marrow cytopreps. Secretion and mRNA expression of paracrine factors was quantitated by ELISA and real-time RT-PCR. Results: Compartments of the bone were optimally viable for up to 48 h in culture and tumor cells for up to 4 days. Bone was the major contributor of TGF-β and MMP2 whereas both bone and sarcoma cells secreted the chemokine MCP-1 in cocultures. Synergistic interaction between the femur and sarcoma resulted in enhanced MCP-1 secretion and expression in cocultures and was dependent on the presence of the hematopoietic component of the bone as well as other bone cells. In contrast, coculturing with breast carcinoma cells resulted in reduction of TGF-β and MCP-1 secretion from the bone. Conclusion: These studies illustrate the feasibility of this model to examine paracrine interactions between intact bone and tumor cells. Further study of unique regulation of MCP-1 secretion and signaling between these cell types in different types of cancer will be possible using this simulated microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalBMC Cancer
StatePublished - Feb 3 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Stephanie Wenzel, Audrey Mayer and Ngozika Okoye for technical assistance. Dr. Cathy Carlson and Ms. Ann Undersander provided invaluable advice on bone histopreparation and immunostaining. This research was supported by funds from the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Faculty Development Grant (to AB, LJM) and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (to LJM).


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