Two-dimensional culture of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells results in an irreversible transition from epithelial to mesenchymal phenotype

Lab Invest. 2015 Feb;95(2):207-22. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2014.143. Epub 2014 Dec 8.


Many commercially available cell lines have been in culture for ages, acquiring phenotypes that differ from the original cancers from which these cell lines were derived. Therefore, research on new cell lines could improve the success rates of translational research in cancer. We have developed methods for the isolation and culture of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells from murine xenografts of human PDAC. We hypothesize that phenotypes of PDAC cells are modified by in vitro culture conditions over time and by in vivo implantation. Patient-derived xenografts were created in immunodeficient mice using surgically resected tumor specimens. These murine xenografts were then used to establish human PDAC cell lines in culture. Earlier (<5) passage and later (>20) passage cell lines were evaluated separately regarding proliferation, cell cycle, genetic mutations, invasiveness, chemosensitivity, tumorigenesis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) status, and proteomics. Later passage cells accelerated their doubling time and colony formation, and were more concentrated in the G0/G1 phase and less in the G2/M checkpoint phase. Later passage cells were more sensitive to gemcitabine and 5-fluorouracil than earlier passage cells, but all four new cell lines were more chemo-resistant compared with commercial ATCC cell lines. EMT induction was observed when establishing and passaging cell lines in vitro and furthermore by growing them as subcutaneous tumors in vivo. This study demonstrates a novel approach to the establishment of PDAC cell lines and observes a process by which newly established cell lines undergo phenotypic changes during in vitro culture and in vivo tumorigenesis. This may help explain differences of treatment effects often observed between experiments conducted in vitro, in vivo, and in human clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / physiology*
  • Fluorouracil
  • Heterografts / cytology
  • Heterografts / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / physiopathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype*
  • Protein Array Analysis
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Deoxycytidine
  • gemcitabine
  • Fluorouracil

Supplementary concepts

  • Pancreatic Carcinoma