Primary fibroblast co-culture stimulates growth and metabolism in Sdhb-impaired mouse pheochromocytoma MTT cells

Cell Tissue Res. 2018 Dec;374(3):473-485. doi: 10.1007/s00441-018-2907-x. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PGLs) due to mutations of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) B, a subunit of the SDH complex with a role in the Krebs cycle and the respiratory chain, tend to be larger at diagnosis and more prone to metastatic disease than other tumors. This presentation contrasts with the behavior of some cell line models of SDHB impairment, which show reduced growth compared to wild type. We hypothesize that reduced growth of SDHB-impaired monolayer culture models might reflect lack of support from sources within the tumor microenvironment. The present study therefore investigates how the microenvironment, modeled here by fibroblast co-culture, modulates cell metabolism, growth and invasion in an Sdhb-impaired mouse pheochromocytoma cell line. We employed two different constructs of short hairpin RNA to knockdown Sdhb and compared growth in a monolayer with and without fibroblast co-culture. Sdhb-silenced cells showed functional impairment of SDH with elevated succinate to fumarate ratio and decreased oxidative capacity. Cell growth was delayed with an increase in doubling time of 2 h or 20 h. Clonogenic cell survival and viability, on the other hand, were either unchanged or increased compared to control. In standard monolayer culture, no differences in pro-metastatic features were present. Co-culture with primary mouse fibroblast reversed the difference of proliferation between control and Sdhb knockdown but was unable to significantly influence invasiveness under these culture conditions. Metabolic studies identified that lactate secreted by fibroblasts was taken up preferentially by Sdhb-silenced cells. In summary, the present study identified a potential role for the tumor microenvironment in influencing phenotypic features of SDHB-mutated PGLs, providing a basis for the use of therapies targeted towards the tumor microenvironment.

Keywords: Lactate; Paraganglioma; Pheochromocytoma; Succinate dehydrogenase; Tumor microenvironment.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gene Silencing
  • Mice
  • Phenotype
  • Pheochromocytoma / metabolism*
  • Pheochromocytoma / pathology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase