Three-Dimensional Spheroid Configurations and Cellular Metabolic Properties of Oral Squamous Carcinomas Are Possible Pharmacological and Pathological Indicators

Cancers (Basel). 2023 May 17;15(10):2793. doi: 10.3390/cancers15102793.


The objective of the current study was to elucidate the clinicopathological significance and appearance of in vitro three-dimension (3D) spheroid models of oral malignant tumors that were prepared from four pathologically different squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC; low-grade; SSYP and MO-1000, intermediate-grade; LEM2) and oral adenosquamous carcinoma (OASC; high-grade; Mesimo) obtained from patients with different malignant stages. To characterize the biological significance of these cell lines themselves, two-dimensional (2D) cultured cells were subjected to cellular metabolic analysis by a Seahorse bioanalyzer alongside the measurement of the cytotoxicity of cisplatin (CDDP). The appearance of their 3D spheroids was then observed by phase contrast microscopy, and both 2D and 3D cultured cells were subject to trypsin digestion and qPCR analysis of factors related to oncogenic signaling and other related analyses. ATP-linked respiration and proton leaking were significantly different among the four cell lines, and the malignant stages of these cultures were significantly associated with increased ATP-linked respiration and decreased proton leakage. Alternatively, the appearances of these 3D spheroids were also significantly diverse among them, and their differences increased in the order of LEM2, MO-1000, SSYP, and Mesimo. Interestingly, these orders were exactly the same in that the efficacies of CDDP-induced cytotoxicity increased in the same order. qPCR analysis indicated that the levels of expression of oncogenic signaling-related factors varied among these four cell lines, and the values for fibronectin and a key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, PGC-1α, were prominently elevated in cultures of the worst malignant Mesimo cells. In addition, although 0.25% trypsin-induced destruction was comparable among all four 2D cultured cells, the values for the 3D spheroids were also substantially varied among these cultures. The findings reported herein indicate that cellular metabolic functions and 3D spheroid architectures may be valuable and useful indicators for estimating the pathological and drug-sensitive aspects of OSCC and OASC malignancies.

Keywords: KRAS; SOX2; oral squamous carcinoma; seahorse bioanalyzer; three-dimensional spheroid culture.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.