Mesenchymal stem cells promote mammosphere formation and decrease E-Cadherin in normal and malignant breast cells

Ann H. Klopp, Lara Lacerda, Anshul Gupta, Bisrat G. Debeb, Travis Solley, Li Li, Erika Spaeth, Wei Xu, Xiaomei Zhang, Michael T. Lewis, James M. Reuben, Savitri Krishnamurthy, Mauro Ferrari, Rogério Gaspar, Thomas A. Buchholz, Massimo Cristofanilli, Frank Marini, Michael Andreeff, Wendy A. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Introduction: Normal and malignant breast tissue contains a rare population of multi-potent cells with the capacity to selfrenew, referred to as stem cells, or tumor initiating cells (TIC). These cells can be enriched by growth as ''mammospheres'' in three-dimensional cultures. Objective: We tested the hypothesis that human bone-marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which are known to support tumor growth and metastasis, increase mammosphere formation. Results: We found that MSC increased human mammary epithelial cell (HMEC) mammosphere formation in a dose-dependent manner. A similar increase in sphere formation was seen in human inflammatory (SUM149) and non-inflammatory breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7) but not in primary inflammatory breast cancer cells (MDA-IBC-3). We determined that increased mammosphere formation can be mediated by secreted factors as MSC conditioned media from MSC spheroids significantly increased HMEC, MCF-7 and SUM149 mammosphere formation by 6.4 to 21-fold. Mammospheres grown in MSC conditioned media had lower levels of the cell adhesion protein, E-cadherin, and increased expression of N-cadherin in SUM149 and HMEC cells, characteristic of a pro-invasive mesenchymal phenotype. Co-injection with MSC in vivo resulted in a reduced latency time to develop detectable MCF-7 and MDA-IBC-3 tumors and increased the growth of MDA-IBC-3 tumors. Furthermore, E-cadherin expression was decreased in MDA-IBC-3 xenografts with co-injection of MSC. Conclusions: MSC increase the efficiency of primary mammosphere formation in normal and malignant breast cells and decrease E-cadherin expression, a biologic event associated with breast cancer progression and resistance to therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12180
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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