Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is often characterized by an abundant desmoplastic stroma that is partially induced by activated pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs). Indirect co-culture has often been used to investigate the effects of cancer-stromal interactions on the proliferation of cancer cells, but the effects of cell-cell adhesion and juxtacrine signaling between cancer and stromal cells cannot be evaluated using this method. This study aimed to establish a simplified direct co-culture system that could be used to quantify populations of cancer cells in co-culture with PSCs, and to evaluate the effects of direct cell contact on the proliferation of cancer cells. We established three green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing pancreatic cancer cell lines and were able to quantify them with high reliability and reproducibility, even when co-cultured directly with PSCs, using a color plate reader. We assessed the differential effects of direct and indirect co-culture with PSCs on the proliferation of cancer cells, and found that the proliferation of GFP-expressing pancreatic cancer cell lines was dramatically enhanced by direct co-culture with PSCs, compared with the indirect co-culture system. We also found that direct co-culture of cancer cells and PSCs activated the Notch signaling pathway in both cell types. Direct cell contact between cancer cells and PSCs plays an important role in the control of cancer cell proliferation, and is essential to the understanding of tumor-stromal interactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research