Role of mesenchymal stem cells in acquisition of metaplasia in AKU-BC42 breast metaplastic carcinoma cell line

Document Type



Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


Introduction: Metaplastic carcinoma (MCa) is a rare and aggressive subtype of invasive breast carcinoma exhibiting epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) where tumor of epithelial origin manifests differentiation into non-glandular, mesenchymal phenotypes such as spindloid, chondroid or osseous components. Acquisition of EMT is associated with low expression of e-cadherin, claudins and high expression of vimentin. Biological mechanisms for acquisition of metaplastic components within MCa are not well understood. The present study was undertaken to establish and characterize a cell line from a patient diagnosed with MCa and to evaluate the role of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in attainment of metaplastic phenotype.
Methodology: AKU-BC-42 was established from a 65 years old Pakistani female patient diagnosed with T4N1M0 MCa. Specimen was procured and processed under sterile conditions and cultured in DMEM supplemented with 10% FBS. Epitheloid colonies were visualized after 3 weeks of culture, which were passaged and propagated. AKU-BC-42 was phenotypically and genotypically characterized using karyotyping, gene expression analysis, immunocytochemistry and florescent insitu hybridization. MSC marker expression was assessed by flow-cytometry. AKU-BC-42 was cultured under appropriate conditions for assessment of differentiation along osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic pathways. Lineage differentiation was evaluated by special immunohistochemical stains and induction of lineage differentiation genes was assessed by Q-PCR.
Results: AKU-BC-42 was found to have a human karyotype with multiploidy and population doubling time of 60 hours. Gene expression profiling revealed negative expression for estrogen and progesterone receptors and positive expression of androgen receptor (AR) and HER-2/neu. FISH analysis was negative for HER-2/neu amplification. Basal (5, 14 & 19) and luminal cytokeratins (8 & 18) were expressed at mRNA level along with myoepithelial markers (CD10, S100A7, p-cadherin, desmin, S100A4, S100A2 & á-SMA). AKU-BC-42 demonstrated MSC pool with expression of CD73 (79.2%), CD90 (10.3%) and CD105 (30.2%) as revealed by flow-cytometry.
Osteogenic differentiation was assessed by von kossa stain for mineralization with up-regulation of ALPL and OPN genes. Similarly, differentiation of AKU-BC-42 into mature adipocytes was evaluated with Oil red O staining of lipid droplets and expression of FABP4 gene. Chondrogenic induction was achieved by performing pellet cultures. Collagen synthesis in extracellular matrix of chondrogenic beads was assessed by mason trichrome staining with up-regulation of ACAN, COL10A1 and COMP.
Conclusions: We report a novel MCa cell line containing a MSC pool. MSC pool within MCa may be responsible for acquisition of metaplasia in this rare subtype of breast cancer. Further studies on this cell line may reveal the biological mechanisms of MCa of the breast.


Cancer Research