Decellularized mice colons as models to study the contribution of the extracellular matrix to cell behavior and colon cancer progression

Busola R. Alabi, Ryan LaRanger, Jerry W. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Current 3D culture models to study colorectal cancer lack architectural support and signaling proteins provided by the tissue extracellular matrix (ECM) which may influence cell behavior and cancer progression. Therefore, the ability to study cancer cells in the context of a matrix that is physiologically more relevant and to understand how the ECM affects cancer progression has been understudied. To address this, we developed an ex-vivo 3D system, provided by intact wild type (WT) and colon cancer susceptible decellularized mouse colons (DMC), to support the growth of human cancer cells. DMC are free of viable cells but still contain extracellular matrix proteins including subsets of collagens. Stiffness, an important mechanical property, is also maintained in DMCs. Importantly, we observed that the DMC is permissive for cell proliferation and differentiation of a human colon cancer cell line (HT-29). Notably, the ability of cells in the WT DMC to differentiate was also greater when compared to Matrigel™, an extracellular matrix extract from a mouse tumor cell line. Additionally, we observed in invasion assays that DMC obtained from polyps from a colon cancer susceptible mouse model facilitated increased cell migration/invasion of colorectal cancer cells and immortalized non-tumor colonic epithelial cells compared to DMC from WT mice. Finally, using mass spectrometry, we identified extracellular matrix proteins that are more abundant in DMC from a colorectal cancer mouse model compared to age and sex-matched WT mice. We propose that these abundantly expressed proteins in the tumor microenvironment are potentially involved in colorectal cancer progression. Statement of Significance: Decellularized matrices, when properly produced, are attractive biomaterials for tissue regeneration and replacement. We show here that the mouse decellularized matrices can also be repurposed to elucidate how the extracellular matrix influences human cell behavior and cancer progression. To do this we produce decellularized matrices, from mice colonic tissue, that have preserved tissue mechanical and structural properties. We demonstrate that the matrix better supports the differentiation of HT-29 cells, a colonic cancer cell line, compared to Matrigel™. Additionally, we show that the extracellular matrix contributes to colon cancer progression via invasion assays using extracellular matrix extracts. Finally, we use mass spectrometry to identify ECM proteins that are more abundant in colonic polyps compared to adjacent tissue regions. This model system may have therapeutic implications for colorectal cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell invasion
  • Differential protein abundance
  • Tissue recellularization
  • Tissue stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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