Cancer Biology


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1 Q&A 395 Views May 20, 2023

Here, we present an in vivo drug screening protocol using a zebrafish model of metastasis for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs. A tamoxifen-controllable Twist1a-ERT2 transgenic zebrafish line was established to serve as a platform for the identification. By crossing Twist1a-ERT2 with xmrk (a homolog of hyperactive form of the epidermal growth factor receptor) transgenic zebrafish, which develop hepatocellular carcinoma, approximately 80% of the double transgenic zebrafish show spontaneous cell dissemination of mCherry-labeled hepatocytes from the liver to the entire abdomen and tail regions in five days, through induction of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). This rapid and high-frequency induction of cell dissemination makes it possible to perform an in vivo drug screen for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs targeting metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. The protocol evaluates the suppressor effect of a test drug on metastasis in five days, by comparing the frequencies of the fish showing abdominal and distant dissemination patterns in the test drug–treated group with those in the vehicle-treated group. Our study previously identified that adrenosterone, an inhibitor for hydroxysteroid (11-beta) dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1), has a suppressor effect on cell dissemination in the model. Furthermore, we validated that a pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of HSD11β1 suppressed metastatic dissemination of highly metastatic human cell lines in a zebrafish xenotransplantation model. Taken together, this protocol opens new routes for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs.

Graphical overview


Day 0: Zebrafish spawning

Day 8: Primary tumor induction

Day 11: Chemical treatment

Day 11.5: Metastatic dissemination induction in the presence of a test chemical

Day 16: Data analysis

0 Q&A 923 Views Oct 5, 2022

Few models exist that allow for rapid and effective screening of anti-metastasis drugs. Here, we present a drug screening protocol utilizing gastrulation of zebrafish embryos for identification of anti-metastasis drugs. Based on the evidence that metastasis proceeds through utilizing the molecular mechanisms of gastrulation, we hypothesized that chemicals interrupting zebrafish gastrulation might suppress the metastasis of cancer cells. Thus, we developed a phenotype-based chemical screen that uses epiboly, the first morphogenetic movement in gastrulation, as a marker. The screen only needs zebrafish embryos and enables hundreds of chemicals to be tested in five hours by observing the epiboly progression of chemical-treated embryos. In the screen, embryos at the two-cell stage are firstly corrected and then developed to the sphere stage. The embryos are treated with a test chemical and incubated in the presence of the chemical until vehicle-treated embryos develop to the 90% epiboly stage. Finally, positive ‘hit’ chemicals that interrupt epiboly progression are selected by comparing epiboly progression of the chemical-treated and vehicle-treated embryos under a stereoscopic microscope. A previous study subjected 1,280 FDA-approved drugs to the screen and identified adrenosterone and pizotifen as epiboly-interrupting drugs. These were validated to suppress metastasis of breast cancer cells in mice models of metastasis. Furthermore, 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1) and serotonin receptor 2C (HTR2C), the primary targets of adrenosterone and pizotifen, respectively, promoted metastasis through induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Therefore, this screen could be converted into a chemical genetic screening platform for identification of metastasis-promoting genes.

Graphical abstract:

6 Q&A 71041 Views Feb 20, 2012
Transwell migration assays have been widely used for studying the motility of different types of cells including metastatic cancer cells. The assay is also useful in screens for compounds that act as chemoattractants or inhibitors of chemotaxis for cells. The assay employs a permeable layer of support, usually a tissue-culture-treated microporous membrane, which is positioned between two compartments that mimic two different sets of microenvironments for cell survival/growth. Cells on one side of the membrane, when sensing chemoattractants placed on the other side of the compartment that diffuses through the membrane, can migrate through the pores in the membrane towards the source of the chemoattractants. Cells that migrate across the membrane can be quantified by fixing and counting. Human breast epithelial adenocarcinoma MD-231 cells grow relatively fast and are metastatic. The MB-231 cell line is used here to describe the procedures of an in vitro cell migration assay using the transwell apparatus.

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