Comprehensive Phenotypic Characterization of Human Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Cell Lines in 2D and 3D Cultures

Cancer Res. 2018 Nov 1;78(21):6209-6222. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-1416. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common subtype of breast cancer following invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and characterized by the loss of E-cadherin-mediated adherens junctions. Despite displaying unique histologic and clinical features, ILC still remains a chronically understudied disease, with limited knowledge gleaned from available laboratory research models. Here we report a comprehensive 2D and 3D phenotypic characterization of four estrogen receptor-positive human ILC cell lines: MDA-MB-134, SUM44, MDA-MB-330, and BCK4. Compared with the IDC cell lines MCF7, T47D, and MDA-MB-231, ultra-low attachment culture conditions revealed remarkable anchorage independence unique to ILC cells, a feature not evident in soft-agar gels. Three-dimensional Collagen I and Matrigel culture indicated a generally loose morphology for ILC cell lines, which exhibited differing preferences for adhesion to extracellular matrix proteins in 2D. Furthermore, ILC cells were limited in their ability to migrate and invade in wound-scratch and transwell assays, with the exception of haptotaxis to Collagen I. Transcriptional comparison of these cell lines confirmed the decreased cell proliferation and E-cadherin-mediated intercellular junctions in ILC while uncovering the induction of novel pathways related to cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase activity, ion channels, drug metabolism, and alternative cell adhesion molecules such as N-cadherin, some of which were differentially regulated in ILC versus IDC tumors. Altogether, these studies provide an invaluable resource for the breast cancer research community and facilitate further functional discoveries toward understanding ILC, identifying novel drug targets, and ultimately improving the outcome of patients with ILC.Significance: These findings provide the breast cancer research community with a comprehensive assessment of human invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) cell line signaling and behavior in various culture conditions, aiding future endeavors to develop therapies and to ultimately improve survival in patients with ILC. Cancer Res; 78(21); 6209-22. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adherens Junctions
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / pathology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cadherins
  • Collagen Type I
  • Receptors, Estrogen