Human-derived osteoblast-like cells and pericyte-like cells induce distinct metastatic phenotypes in primary breast cancer cells

Vera Mayo, Annie C. Bowles, Laura E. Wubker, Ismael Ortiz, Albert M. Cordoves, Richard J. Cote, Diego Correa, Ashutosh Agarwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Approximately 70% of advanced breast cancer patients will develop bone metastases, which accounts for ∼90% of cancer-related mortality. Breast cancer circulating tumor cells (CTCs) establish metastatic tumors in the bone after a close interaction with local bone marrow cells including pericytes and osteoblasts, both related to resident mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (BM-MSCs) progenitors. In vitro recapitulation of the critical cellular players of the bone microenvironment and infiltrating CTCs could provide new insights into their cross-talk during the metastatic cascade, helping in the development of novel therapeutic strategies. Human BM-MSCs were isolated and fractionated according to CD146 presence. CD146+ cells were utilized as pericyte-like cells (PLCs) given the high expression of the marker in perivascular cells, while CD146− cells were induced into an osteogenic phenotype generating osteoblast-like cells (OLCs). Transwell migration assays were performed to establish whether primary breast cancer cells (3384T) were attracted to OLC. Furthermore, proliferation of 3384T breast cancer cells was assessed in the presence of PLC- and OLC-derived conditioned media. Additionally, conditioned media cultures as well as transwell co-cultures of each OLCs and PLCs were performed with 3384T breast cancer cells for gene expression interrogation assessing their induced transcriptional changes with an emphasis on metastatic potential. PLC as well as their conditioned media increased motility and invasion potential of 3384T breast cancer cells, while OLC induced a dormant phenotype, downregulating invasiveness markers related with migration and proliferation. Altogether, these results indicate that PLC distinctively drive 3384T cancer cells to an invasive and migratory phenotype, while OLC induce a quiescence state, thus recapitulating the different phases of the in vivo bone metastatic process. These data show that phenotypic responses from metastasizing cancer cells are influenced by neighboring cells at the bone metastatic niche during the establishment of secondary metastatic tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-985
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Cancer
  • bone
  • metastatic cascade
  • organs on chips
  • pericytes
  • tumor


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