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Liu, Xiao-qing; Kiefl, Rosemarie; Roskopf, Claudia; Tian, Fei; Huber, Rudolf M. (2016): Interactions among Lung Cancer Cells, Fibroblasts, and Macrophages in 3D Co-Cultures and the Impact on MMP-1 and VEGF Expression.
In: PLOS ONE 11(5), e0156268


In vitro cell-based models of lung cancer are frequently employed to study invasion and the mechanisms behind metastasis. However, these models often study only one cell type with two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cell cultures, which do not accurately reflect the complexity of inflammation in vivo. Here, a three-dimensional (3D) cell co-culture collagen gel model was employed, containing human lung adenocarcinoma cells (HCC), human lung fibroblast cells (MRC-5), and macrophages. Cell culture media and cell images were collected, and matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production was monitored under different cell culture conditions. We found that simulating hypoxia and/or serum starvation conditions induced elevated secretion of VEGF in the 3D co-culture model in vitro, but not MMP-1;the morphology of HCC in the 2D versus the 3D co-culture system was extremely different. MMP-1 and VEGF were secreted at higher levels in mixed cell groups rather than mono-culture groups. Therefore, incorporating lung cancer cells, fibroblasts, and macrophages may better reflect physiological metastasis mechanisms compared to mono-culture systems. Tumour stromal cells, macrophages, and fibroblast cells may promote invasion and metastasis, which also provides a new direction for the design of therapies targeted at destroying the stroma of tumor tissues.