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Serum-derived factors of breast cancer patients with brain metastases alter permeability of a human blood–brain barrier model

Abstract : Background: The most threatening metastases in breast cancer are brain metastases, which correlate with a very poor overall survival, but also a limited quality of life. A key event for the metastatic progression of breast cancer into the brain is the migration of cancer cells across the blood–brain barrier (BBB). Methods: We adapted and validated the CD34+ cells-derived human in vitro BBB model (brain-like endothelial cells, BLECs) to analyse the effects of patient serum on BBB properties. We collected serum samples from healthy donors, breast cancer patients with primary cancer, and breast cancer patients with, bone, visceral or cerebral metastases. We analysed cytokine levels in these sera utilizing immunoassays and correlated them with clinical data. We used paracellular permeability measurements, immunofluorescence staining, Western blot and mRNA analysis to examine the effects of patient sera on the properties of BBB in vitro. Results: The BLECs cultured together with brain pericytes in transwells developed a tight monolayer with a correct localization of claudin-5 at the tight junctions (TJ). Several BBB marker proteins such as the TJ proteins claudin-5 and occludin, the glucose transporter GLUT-1 or the efflux pumps PG-P and BCRP were upregulated in these cultures. This was accompanied by a reduced paracellular permeability for fluorescein (400 Da). We then used this model for the treatment with the patient sera. Only the sera of breast cancer patients with cerebral metastases had significantly increased levels of the cytokines fractalkine (CX3CL1) and BCA-1 (CXCL13). The increased levels of fractalkine were associated with the estrogen/progesterone receptor status of the tumour. The treatment of BLECs with these sera selectively increased the expression of CXCL13 and TJ protein occludin. In addition, the permeability of fluorescein was increased after serum treatment. Conclusion: We demonstrate that the CD34+ cell-derived human in vitro BBB model can be used as a tool to study the molecular mechanisms underlying cerebrovascular pathologies. We showed that serum from patients with cerebral metastases may affect the integrity of the BBB in vitro, associated with elevated concentrations of specific cytokines such as CX3CL1 and CXCL13
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Contributor : Virginie Justin-Labonne <>
Submitted on : Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:36:58 PM
Last modification on : Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:45:12 PM

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Carolin Curtaz, Constanze Schmitt, Saskia-Laureen Herbert, Jonas Feldheim, Nicolas Schlegel, et al.. Serum-derived factors of breast cancer patients with brain metastases alter permeability of a human blood–brain barrier model. Fluids and Barriers of the CNS, BioMed Central, 2020, 17, pp.31. ⟨10.1186/s12987-020-00192-6⟩. ⟨hal-03127441⟩

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