An improved model to study tumor cell autonomous metastasis programs using MTLn3 cells and the Rag2(-/-) gammac (-/-) mouse

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2009;26(7):673-84. doi: 10.1007/s10585-009-9267-6. Epub 2009 May 24.


The occurrence of metastases is a critical determinant of the prognosis for breast cancer patients. Effective treatment of breast cancer metastases is hampered by a poor understanding of the mechanisms involved in the formation of these secondary tumor deposits. To study the processes of metastasis, valid in vivo tumor metastasis models are required. Here, we show that increased expression of the EGF receptor in the MTLn3 rat mammary tumor cell-line is essential for efficient lung metastasis formation in the Rag mouse model. EGFR expression resulted in delayed orthotopic tumor growth but at the same time strongly enhanced intravasation and lung metastasis. Previously, we demonstrated the critical role of NK cells in a lung metastasis model using MTLn3 cells in syngenic F344 rats. However, this model is incompatible with human EGFR. Using the highly metastatic EGFR-overexpressing MTLn3 cell-line, we report that only Rag2(-/-)gammac(-/-) mice, which lack NK cells, allow efficient lung metastasis from primary tumors in the mammary gland. In contrast, in nude and SCID mice, the remaining innate immune cells reduce MTLn3 lung metastasis formation. Furthermore, we confirm this finding with the orthotopic transplantation of the 4T1 mouse mammary tumor cell-line. Thus, we have established an improved in vivo model using a Rag2(-/-) gammac(-/-) mouse strain together with MTLn3 cells that have increased levels of the EGF receptor, which enables us to study EGFR-dependent tumor cell autonomous mechanisms underlying lung metastasis formation. This improved model can be used for drug target validation and development of new therapeutic strategies against breast cancer metastasis formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Rats


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Rag2 protein, mouse