Cytomorphology and Gene Expression Signatures of Anchorage-independent Aggregations of Oral Cancer Cells

Kouhei Sakurai, Akira Nagai, Tatsuya Ando, Yasuhiro Sakai, Yuka Ideta, Yuichiro Hayashi, Junichi Baba, Kenji Mitsudo, Masaharu Akita, Nobutake Yamamichi, Hidetsugu Fujigaki, Taku Kato, Hiroyasu Ito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aim: Cancer cells with high anchorage independence can survive and proliferate in the absence of adhesion to the extracellular matrix. Under anchorage-independent conditions, cancer cells adhere to each other and form aggregates to overcome various stresses. In this study, we investigated the cytomorphology and gene expression signatures of oral cancer cell aggregates. Materials and Methods: Two oral cancer-derived cell lines, SAS and HSC-3 cells, were cultured in a low-attachment plate and their cytomorphologies were observed. The transcriptome between attached and detached SAS cells was examined using gene expression microarrays. Subsequently, gene enrichment analysis and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis were performed. Gene expression changes under attached, detached, and re-attached conditions were measured via RT-qPCR. Results: While SAS cells formed multiple round-shaped aggregates, HSC-3 cells, which had lower anchorage independence, did not form aggregates efficiently. Each SAS cell in the aggregate was linked by desmosomes and tight junctions. Comparative transcriptomic analysis revealed 1,698 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between attached and detached SAS cells. The DEGs were associated with various functions and processes, including cell adhesion. Moreover, under the detached condition, the expression of some epithelial genes (DSC3, DSP, CLDN1 and OCLN) were up-regulated. The changes in both cytomorphology and epithelial gene expression under the detached condition overall returned to their original ones when cells re-attached. Conclusion: The results suggest specific cytomorphological and gene expression changes in oral cancer cell aggregates. Our findings provide insights into the mechanisms underlying anchorage-independent oral cancer cell aggregation and reveal previously unknown potential diagnostic and therapeutic molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Genomics and Proteomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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