Multiphoton tomography visualizes collagen fibers in the tumor microenvironment that maintain cancer-cell anchorage and shape

J Cell Biochem. 2013 Jan;114(1):99-102. doi: 10.1002/jcb.24305.


Second harmonic generation (SHG) multiphoton imaging can visualize fibrillar collagen in tissues. SHG has previously shown that fibrillar collagen is altered in various types of cancer. In the present study, in vivo high resolution SHG multi-photon tomography in living mice was used to study the relationship between cancer cells and intratumor collagen fibrils. Using green fluorescent protein (GFP) to visualize cancer cells and SHG to image collagen, we demonstrated that collagen fibrils provide a scaffold for cancer cells to align themselves and acquire optimal shape. These results suggest a new paradigm for a stromal element of tumors: their role in maintaining anchorage and shape of cancer cells that may enable them to proliferate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Shape
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Fibrillar Collagens / analysis*
  • Fibrillar Collagens / metabolism
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Photons*
  • Tomography / methods*
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Fibrillar Collagens
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins