Isolation and morphologic characterization of human ovarian carcinoma cell clusters present in effusions

Exp Cell Biol. 1987;55(4):194-208. doi: 10.1159/000163419.


Serous, mucinous, endometrioid and clear cell human ovarian carcinoma cells were isolated as multicellular aggregates from patient effusions by filtration on nylon mesh of defined porosity and examined by light microscopy. The cell clusters ranged from compact to loosely adherent groups of cells to spheroids with a central lumen surrounded by a cell monolayer. There was considerable variation in cluster morphology between effusions from different patients as well as within effusion from the same patient. Apparent budding of clusters was observed as well as different stages of cluster growth and development. This was observed for all histologic types studied. Electron microscopy of serous, mucinous and clear cell types showed that cells forming clusters were attached to each other by desmosomes, demonstrating that cluster formation did not result from a nonspecific stickiness of cells. Irregular microvilli were present on the external periphery of the various carcinoma cells and a prominent glycocalyx was present on the surface of mucinous carcinoma cells. Extensive interdigitation of cytoplasmic extensions and extended villi was present in mucinous and serous clusters which appeared to strengthen cluster cohesiveness. Nuclei were irregular with prominent nucleoli frequently present. The cell clusters usually remained intact and viable in culture but generally did not attach to glass or plastic substrata, whereas mesothelial cells and nonactivated histiocytes rapidly attached. When carcinoma cell clusters did attach, they were resistant to detachment by trypsin-EDTA treatment, in contrast to the nonmalignant cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Ascites / pathology
  • Cell Aggregation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pleural Effusion / pathology