Fibroblasts maintained in 3 dimensions show a better differentiation state and higher sensitivity to estrogens

Claudia Montani, Nathalie Steimberg, Jennifer Boniotti, Giorgio Biasiotto, Isabella Zanella, Giuseppe Diafera, Ida Biunno, Luigi Caimi, Giovanna Mazzoleni, Diego Di Lorenzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell differentiation and response to hormonal signals were studied in a 3D environment on an in-house generated mouse fibroblast cell line expressing a reporter gene under the control of estrogen responsive sequences (EREs). 3D cell culture conditions were obtained in a Rotary Cell Culture System; (RCCS™), a microgravity based bioreactor that promotes the aggregation of cells into multicellular spheroids (MCS). In this bioreactor the cells maintained a better differentiated phenotype and more closely resembled in vivo tissue. The RCCS™ cultured fibroblasts showed higher expression of genes regulating cell assembly, differentiation and hormonal functions. Microarray analysis showed that genes related to cell cycle, proliferation, cytoskeleton, migration, adhesion and motility were all down-regulated in 3D as compared to 2D conditions, as well as oncogene expression and inflammatory cytokines. Controlled remodeling of ECM, which is an essential aspect of cell organization, homeostasis and tissue was affected by the culture method as assessed by immunolocalization of β-tubulin. Markers of cell organization, homeostasis and tissue repair, metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) and its physiological inhibitor (TIMP4) changed expression in association with the relative formation of cell aggregates. The fibroblasts cultured in the RCCS™ maintain a better responsiveness to estrogens, measured as expression of ERα and regulation of an ERE-dependent reporter and of the endogenous target genes CBP, Rarb, MMP1 and Dbp.Our data highlight the interest of this 3D culture model for its potential application in the field of cell response to hormonal signals and the pharmaco-toxicological analyses of chemicals and natural molecules endowed of estrogenic potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-433
Number of pages13
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2014


  • 3 dimension
  • Bioreactor
  • ECM
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Fibroblasts
  • Microgravity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology
  • Medicine(all)


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