Expanding primary cells from mucoepidermoid and other salivary gland neoplasms for genetic and chemosensitivity testing

Dis Model Mech. 2018 Jan 29;11(1):dmm031716. doi: 10.1242/dmm.031716.


Restricted availability of cell and animal models is a rate-limiting step for investigation of salivary gland neoplasm pathophysiology and therapeutic response. Conditionally reprogrammed cell (CRC) technology enables establishment of primary epithelial cell cultures from patient material. This study tested a translational workflow for acquisition, expansion and testing of CRC-derived primary cultures of salivary gland neoplasms from patients presenting to an academic surgical practice. Results showed that cultured cells were sufficient for epithelial cell-specific transcriptome characterization to detect candidate therapeutic pathways and fusion genes, and for screening for cancer risk-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and driver gene mutations through exome sequencing. Focused study of primary cultures of a low-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma demonstrated amphiregulin-mechanistic target of rapamycin-protein kinase B (AKT; AKT1) pathway activation, identified through bioinformatics and subsequently confirmed as present in primary tissue and preserved through different secondary 2D and 3D culture media and xenografts. Candidate therapeutic testing showed that the allosteric AKT inhibitor MK2206 reproducibly inhibited cell survival across different culture formats. By contrast, the cells appeared resistant to the adenosine triphosphate competitive AKT inhibitor GSK690693. Procedures employed here illustrate an approach for reproducibly obtaining material for pathophysiological studies of salivary gland neoplasms, and other less common epithelial cancer types, that can be executed without compromising pathological examination of patient specimens. The approach permits combined genetic and cell-based physiological and therapeutic investigations in addition to more traditional pathologic studies, and can be used to build sustainable bio-banks for future inquiries.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

Keywords: AKT; Drug sensitivity; Mucoepidermoid carcinoma; Next-generation sequencing; Primary cell culture; Salivary gland neoplasms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors