Cell migration is a process that ensures correct cell localization and function in development and homeostasis. In disease such as cancer, cells acquire an upregulated migratory capacity that leads to their dissemination throughout the body. Live imaging of cell migration allows for better understanding of cell behaviors in development, adult tissue homeostasis and disease. We have optimized live imaging procedures to track cell migration in adult murine tissue explants derived from: (1) healthy gut; (2) primary intestinal carcinoma; and (3) the liver, a common metastatic site. To track epithelial cell migration in the gut, we generated an inducible fluorescent reporter mouse, enabling us to visualize and track individual cells in unperturbed gut epithelium. To image intratumoral cancer cells, we use a spontaneous intestinal cancer model based on the activation of Notch1 and deletion of p53 in the mouse intestinal epithelium, which gives rise to aggressive carcinoma. Interaction of cancer cells with a metastatic niche, the mouse liver, is addressed using a liver colonization model. In summary, we describe a method for long-term 3D imaging of tissue explants by two-photon excitation microscopy. Explant culturing and imaging can help understand dynamic behavior of cells in homeostasis and disease, and would be applicable to various tissues.
Keywords: Cell migration; Ex vivo culture; Gut; Liver; Tissue explant; Tumor; Two-photon imaging.