Research Papers:

Three-dimensional organoid culture reveals involvement of Wnt/β-catenin pathway in proliferation of bladder cancer cells

Takahiro Yoshida _, Nikolai A. Sopko, Max Kates, Xiaopu Liu, Gregory Joice, David J. McConkey and Trinity J. Bivalacqua

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:11060-11070. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24308

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Takahiro Yoshida1, Nikolai A. Sopko1, Max Kates1, Xiaopu Liu1, Gregory Joice1, David J. McConkey1,2 and Trinity J. Bivalacqua1,2

1The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute and Department of Urology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

2The Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to:

Takahiro Yoshida, email: [email protected]

Keywords: Wnt; β-catenin; bladder cancer; organoid; spheroid

Received: January 18, 2018     Accepted: January 19, 2018     Published: January 24, 2018


There has been increasing awareness of the importance of three-dimensional culture of cancer cells. Tumor cells growing as multicellular spheroids in three-dimensional culture, alternatively called organoids, are widely believed to more closely mimic solid tumors in situ. Previous studies concluded that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is required for regeneration of the normal urothelium after injury and that β-catenin is upregulated in human bladder cancers, but no clear evidence has been advanced to support the idea that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is directly involved in deregulated proliferation and the other malignant characteristics of bladder cancer cells. Here we report that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway activator, CHIR99021, promoted proliferation of established human bladder cancer cell lines when they were grown in organoid culture but not when they were grown in conventional adherent cultures. CHIR99021 activated Wnt/β-catenin pathway in bladder cancer cell lines in organoid culture. CHIR99021 also stimulated proliferation and the Wnt/b-catenin pathway in primary human bladder cancer organoids. RNAi-mediated knockdown of β-catenin blocked growth of organoids. The effects of CHIR99021 were associated with decreased expression of the urothelial terminal differentiation marker, cytokeratin 20. Our data suggest that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is required for the proliferation of bladder cancer cells in three-dimensional organoid culture and provide a concrete example of why organoid culture is important for cancer research.

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