An in vitro hyaluronic acid hydrogel based platform to model dormancy in brain metastatic breast cancer cells

Academic Article

Abstract

  • Breast cancer cells (BCCs) can remain dormant at the metastatic site, which when revoked leads to formation of metastasis several years after the treatment of primary tumor. Particularly, awakening of dormant BCCs in the brain results in breast cancer brain metastasis (BCBrM) which marks the most advanced stage of the disease with a median survival period of ~4–16 months. However, our understanding of dormancy associated with BCBrM remains obscure, in part, due to the lack of relevant in vitro platforms to model dormancy associated with BCBrM. To address this need, we developed an in vitro hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogel platform to model dormancy in brain metastatic BCCs via exploiting the bio-physical cues provided by HA hydrogels while bracketing the normal brain and metastatic brain malignancy relevant stiffness range. In this system, we observed that MDA-MB-231Br and BT474Br3 brain metastatic BCCs exhibited a dormant phenotype when cultured on soft (0.4 kPa) HA hydrogel compared to stiff (4.5 kPa) HA hydrogel as characterized by significantly lower EdU and Ki67 positivity. Further, we demonstrated the nuclear localization of p21 and p27 (markers associated with dormancy) in dormant MDA-MB-231Br cells contrary to their cytoplasmic localization in the proliferative population. We also demonstrated that the stiffness-based dormancy in MDA-MB-231Br cells was reversible and was, in part, mediated by focal adhesion kinases and the initial cell seeding density. Finally, RNA sequencing confirmed the dormant phenotype in MDA-MB-231Br cells. This platform could further our understanding of dormancy in BCBrM and could be adapted for anti-metastatic drug screening. Statement of Significance: Our understanding of dormancy associated with BCBrM remains obscure, in part, due to the lack of relevant in vitro platforms to model dormancy associated with BCBrM. Herein, we present a HA hydrogel-based platform to model dormancy in brain metastatic BCCs while recapitulating key aspects of brain microenvironment. We demonstrated that the biophysical cues provided the HA hydrogel mediates dormancy in brain metastatic BCCs by assessing both proliferation and cell cycle arrest markers. We also established the role of focal adhesion kinases and initial cell seeding density in the stiffness-mediated dormancy in brain metastatic BCCs. Further, RNA-seq. confirmed the dormant phenotype in brain metastatic BCCs. This platform could be utilized to further our understanding of microenvironmental regulation of dormancy in BCBrM.
  • Published In

  • Acta Biomaterialia  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Narkhede AA; Crenshaw JH; Crossman DK; Shevde LA; Rao SS
  • Start Page

  • 65
  • End Page

  • 77
  • Volume

  • 107