Modeling the epithelial-mesenchymal transition process in a 3D organotypic cervical neoplasia

Vincenza De Gregorio, Alessia La Rocca, Francesco Urciuolo, Clorinda Annunziata, Maria Lina Tornesello, Franco Maria Buonaguro, Paolo Antonio Netti, Giorgia Imparato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here, we proposed an innovative organotypic cervical tumor model able to investigate the bi-directional crosstalk between epithelium and stroma as well as the key disease features of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process in vitro. By using a modular tissue assembling approach, we developed 3D cervical stromal models composed of primary human cervical fibroblasts (HCFs) or cervical cancer-associated fibroblasts (CCAFs) embedded in their own ECM to produce 3D normal cervical-instructed stroma (NCIS) or 3D cervical cancer-instructed stroma (CCIS), respectively. Then, we demonstrate the role of the tumor microenvironment (TME) in potentiating the intrinsic invasive attitude of cervical cancer derived SiHa cells and increasing their early viral gene expression by comparing the SiHa behavior when cultured on NCIS or CCIS (SiHa-NCIS or SiHa-CCIS). We proved the crucial role of the CCAFs and stromal microenvironment in the mesenchymalization of the cancer epithelial cells by analyzing several EMT markers. We further assessed the expression of the epithelial adhesion molecules, matricellular enzymes, non-collagenous proteins as well as ECM remodeling in terms of collagen fibers texture and assembly. This cervical tumor model, closely recapitulating key cervical carcinogenesis features, may provide efficient and relevant support to current approaches characterizing cancer progression and develop new anticancer therapy targeting stroma rather than cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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