Establishment of 2D Cell Cultures Derived From 3D MCF-7 Spheroids Displaying a Doxorubicin Resistant Profile

Biotechnol J. 2019 Apr;14(4):e1800268. doi: 10.1002/biot.201800268. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


In vitro 3D cancer spheroids generally exhibit a drug resistance profile similar to that found in solid tumors. Due to this property, these models are an appealing for anticancer compounds screening. Nevertheless, the techniques and methods aimed for drug discovery are mostly standardized for cells cultured in 2D. The development of 2D cell culture models displaying a drug resistant profile is required to mimic the in vivo tumors, while the equipment, techniques, and methodologies established for conventional 2D cell cultures can continue to be employed in compound screening. In this work, the response of 3D-derived MCF-7 cells subsequently cultured in 2D in medium supplemented with glutathione (GSH) (antioxidant agent found in high levels in breast cancer tissues and a promoter of cancer cells resistance) to Doxorubicin (DOX) is evaluated. These cells demonstrated a resistance toward DOX closer to that displayed by 3D spheroids, which is higher than that exhibited by standard 2D cell cultures. In fact, the 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50 ) of DOX in 3D-derived MCF-7 cell cultures supplemented with GSH is about eight-times higher than that obtained for conventional 2D cell cultures (cultured without GSH), and is only about two-times lower than that attained for 3D MCF-7 spheroids (cultured without GSH). Further investigation revealed that this improved resistance of 3D-derived MCF-7 cells may result from their increased P-glycoprotein (P-gp) activity and reduced production of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Keywords: 2D cell cultures; breast cancer; doxorubicin; drug resistance; glutathione; spheroids.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Spheroids, Cellular / drug effects*


  • Doxorubicin