Transient commensal clonal interactions can drive tumor metastasis

Nat Commun. 2020 Nov 16;11(1):5799. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19584-1.


The extent and importance of functional heterogeneity and crosstalk between tumor cells is poorly understood. Here, we describe the generation of clonal populations from a patient-derived ovarian clear cell carcinoma model which forms malignant ascites and solid peritoneal tumors upon intraperitoneal transplantation in mice. The clonal populations are engineered with secreted Gaussia luciferase to monitor tumor growth dynamics and tagged with a unique DNA barcode to track their fate in multiclonal mixtures during tumor progression. Only one clone, CL31, grows robustly, generating exclusively malignant ascites. However, multiclonal mixtures form large solid peritoneal metastases, populated almost entirely by CL31, suggesting that transient cooperative interclonal interactions are sufficient to promote metastasis of CL31. CL31 uniquely harbors ERBB2 amplification, and its acquired metastatic activity in clonal mixtures is dependent on transient exposure to amphiregulin, which is exclusively secreted by non-tumorigenic clones. Amphiregulin enhances CL31 mesothelial clearance, a prerequisite for metastasis. These findings demonstrate that transient, ostensibly innocuous tumor subpopulations can promote metastases via "hit-and-run" commensal interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amphiregulin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Ascites / pathology
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology
  • Cell Communication*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Separation
  • Clone Cells / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Amplification
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ligands
  • Mice, SCID
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Phenotype
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Amphiregulin
  • Ligands
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2