Orthotopic transplant mouse models with green fluorescent protein-expressing cancer cells to visualize metastasis and angiogenesis

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1998-1999;17(3):271-7. doi: 10.1023/a:1006188412324.


There have been major efforts in metastasis research in recent years, especially on the role of angiogenesis in the metastatic process. Much of the information in this area has been obtained from model systems that are not representative of clinical cancer. The technique of surgical orthotopic implantation (SOI) has allowed the development of clinically relevant metastatic models of human cancer in immunodeficient rodents such as the nude and SCID mouse. In order to allow direct visualization of the metastatic process, we took advantage of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) of the jellyfish, Aequorea victoria. A series of cancer cell lines have been stably transfected with vectors containing humanized GFP cDNA. To utilize GFP expression for metastasis studies, fragments of subcutaneously growing tumor, which were comprised of GFP-expressing cells, were implanted by SOI in nude mice. Subsequent metastases were visualized in systemic organs by GFP fluorescence in the lung, liver, bones, brain and other organs down to the single-cell level. With this fluorescent tool, we detected and visualized for the first time tumor cells at the microscopic level in fresh viable tissue in their normal host organs even in the live animal. Angiogenesis is readily visualized in the transplanted GFP-expressing tumors in real time in situ in the live animal using simple laparotomy and fluorescent techniques. The results with the GFP-transfected tumor cells, combined with the use of SOI, demonstrate a fundamental advance to visualize and study cancer metastasis and the role of angiogenesis and other factors in the metastatic process.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • CHO Cells / transplantation
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / secondary
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / secondary
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Tongue Neoplasms / pathology
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / transplantation


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins