Stroma regulates increased epithelial lateral cell adhesion in 3D culture: a role for actin/cadherin dynamics

Karen Fiona Chambers, Joanna Frances Pearson, Naveed Aziz, Peter John O'Toole, David Garrod, Shona Helen Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Cell shape and tissue architecture are controlled by changes to junctional proteins and the cytoskeleton. How tissues control the dynamics of adhesion and cytoskeletal tension is unclear. We have studied epithelial tissue architecture using 3D culture models and found that adult primary prostate epithelial cells grow into hollow acinus-like spheroids. Importantly, when co-cultured with stroma the epithelia show increased lateral cell adhesions. To investigate this mechanism further we aimed to: identify a cell line model to allow repeatable and robust experiments; determine whether or not epithelial adhesion molecules were affected by stromal culture; and determine which stromal signalling molecules may influence cell adhesion in 3D epithelial cell cultures.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The prostate cell line, BPH-1, showed increased lateral cell adhesion in response to stroma, when grown as 3D spheroids. Electron microscopy showed that 9.4% of lateral membranes were within 20 nm of each other and that this increased to 54% in the presence of stroma, after 7 days in culture. Stromal signalling did not influence E-cadherin or desmosome RNA or protein expression, but increased E-cadherin/actin co-localisation on the basolateral membranes, and decreased paracellular permeability. Microarray analysis identified several growth factors and pathways that were differentially expressed in stroma in response to 3D epithelial culture. The upregulated growth factors TGFβ2, CXCL12 and FGF10 were selected for further analysis because of previous associations with morphology. Small molecule inhibition of TGFβ2 signalling but not of CXCL12 and FGF10 signalling led to a decrease in actin and E-cadherin co-localisation and increased paracellular permeability.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: In 3D culture models, paracrine stromal signals increase epithelial cell adhesion via adhesion/cytoskeleton interactions and TGFβ2-dependent mechanisms may play a key role. These findings indicate a role for stroma in maintaining adult epithelial tissue morphology and integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere18796
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Early online date18 Apr 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Actins
  • Cadherins
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 10
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Prostate
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stromal Cells
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2

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