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Experimental and modeling study of the formation of cell aggregates with differential substrate adhesion

Abstract : The study of cell aggregation in vitro has a tremendous importance these days. In cancer biology, aggregates and spheroids serve as model systems and are considered as pseudo-tumors that are more realistic than 2D cell cultures. Recently, in the context of brain tumors (gliomas), we developed a new poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based hydrogel, with adhesive properties that can be controlled by the addition of poly(L-lysine) (PLL), and a stiffness close to the brain's. This substrate allows the motion of individual cells and the formation of cell aggregates (within one day), and we showed that on a non-adhesive substrate (PEG without PLL is inert for cells), the aggregates are bigger and less numerous than on an adhesive substrate (with PLL). In this article, we present new experimental results on the follow-up of the formation of aggregates on our hydrogels, from the early stages (individual cells) to the late stages (aggregate compaction), in order to compare, for two cell lines (F98 and U87), the aggregation process on the adhesive and non-adhesive substrates. We first show that a spaceless model of perikinetic aggregation can reproduce the experimental evolution of the number of aggregates, but not of the mean area of the aggregates. We thus develop a minimal off-lattice agent-based model, with a few simple rules reproducing the main processes that are at stack during aggregation. Our spatial model can reproduce very well the experimental temporal evolution of both the number of aggregates and their mean area, on adhesive and non-adhesive soft gels and for the two different cell lines. From the fit of the experimental data, we were able to infer the quantitative values of the speed of motion of each cell line, its rate of proliferation in aggregates and its ability to organize in 3D. We also found qualitative differences between the two cell lines regarding the ability of aggregates to compact. These parameters could be inferred for any cell line, and correlated with clinical properties such as aggressiveness and invasiveness.
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Submitted on : Friday, February 7, 2020 - 1:36:18 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, March 28, 2020 - 1:55:28 AM

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Léo Adenis, Emilie Gontran, Christophe Deroulers, Basile Grammaticos, Marjorie Juchaux, et al.. Experimental and modeling study of the formation of cell aggregates with differential substrate adhesion. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2020, 15 (2), pp.e0222371. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0222371⟩. ⟨inserm-02470604⟩

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