We have found that neoplastic transformation alters the ability of cells to grow on substrata of tissue extracts, “biomatrices”, enriched in extracellular matrix. Tumor cells were able to survive and grow at lower densities and on more types of biomatrices than normal cells. When plated at high densities (>105 cells/60 mm dish), tumor cells attached with equal efficiency and grew at similar rates and to equivalent saturation densities on biomatrices derived from all tissues. However, at low (102-104/60-mm dish) seeding densities, the tumor cells grew only on certain types of biomatrix. For the various hepatoma and mammary carcinoma cell lines tested, the tissue specificity in clonal growth on biomatrices correlated with their organ site specificity for metastasis in vivo in immunosuppressed, athymic nude mice. Analysis of the effects of purified matrix components (adhesion proteins, collagens, glycosaminoglycans) indicated that only the glycosaminoglycans influenced density-dependent survival and growth of tumor cells with effects that differed with respect to the cell's metastatic potential. The results indicate that the ability of tumor cells to colonize specific tissues represents, in part, regulation of low density survival and growth by extracellular matrix and are suggestive that one of the matrix components responsible may be proteoglycans or their glycosaminoglycan chains.


This research was supported by a grant from the American Cancer Society (BC-439), NIH (Grants P30CA13330, AM17702-12, and CA33164), and a grant from the Council for Tobacco Research (1897RI). Lola M. Reid receives salary support through an NIH Career Development Award (CA00783).

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