Experimental generation of carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) from human mammary fibroblasts.
AffiliationCR-UK Stromal-Tumour Interaction Group, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, University of Manchester.
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AbstractCarcinomas are complex tissues comprised of neoplastic cells and a non-cancerous compartment referred to as the 'stroma'. The stroma consists of extracellular matrix (ECM) and a variety of mesenchymal cells, including fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, endothelial cells, pericytes and leukocytes (1-3). The tumour-associated stroma is responsive to substantial paracrine signals released by neighbouring carcinoma cells. During the disease process, the stroma often becomes populated by carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) including large numbers of myofibroblasts. These cells have previously been extracted from many different types of human carcinomas for their in vitro culture. A subpopulation of CAFs is distinguishable through their up-regulation of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression(4,5). These cells are a hallmark of 'activated fibroblasts' that share similar properties with myofibroblasts commonly observed in injured and fibrotic tissues (6). The presence of this myofibroblastic CAF subset is highly related to high-grade malignancies and associated with poor prognoses in patients. Many laboratories, including our own, have shown that CAFs, when injected with carcinoma cells into immunodeficient mice, are capable of substantially promoting tumourigenesis (7-10). CAFs prepared from carcinoma patients, however, frequently undergo senescence during propagation in culture limiting the extensiveness of their use throughout ongoing experimentation. To overcome this difficulty, we developed a novel technique to experimentally generate immortalised human mammary CAF cell lines (exp-CAFs) from human mammary fibroblasts, using a coimplantation breast tumour xenograft model. In order to generate exp-CAFs, parental human mammary fibroblasts, obtained from the reduction mammoplasty tissue, were first immortalised with hTERT, the catalytic subunit of the telomerase holoenzyme, and engineered to express GFP and a puromycin resistance gene. These cells were coimplanted with MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells expressing an activated ras oncogene (MCF-7-ras cells) into a mouse xenograft. After a period of incubation in vivo, the initially injected human mammary fibroblasts were extracted from the tumour xenografts on the basis of their puromycin resistance (11). We observed that the resident human mammary fibroblasts have differentiated, adopting a myofibroblastic phenotype and acquired tumour-promoting properties during the course of tumour progression. Importantly, these cells, defined as exp-CAFs, closely mimic the tumour-promoting myofibroblastic phenotype of CAFs isolated from breast carcinomas dissected from patients. Our tumour xenograft-derived exp-CAFs therefore provide an effective model to study the biology of CAFs in human breast carcinomas. The described protocol may also be extended for generating and characterising various CAF populations derived from other types of human carcinomas.
CitationExperimental generation of carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) from human mammary fibroblasts. 2011 (56):e3201 J Vis Exp
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments