Cellular heterogeneity profiling by hyaluronan probes reveals an invasive but slow-growing breast tumor subset

Mandana Veiseh, Daniel H. Kwon, Alexander D Borowsky, Cornelia Tolg, Hon S. Leong, John D. Lewis, Eva A. Turley, Mina J. Bissell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Tumor heterogeneity confounds cancer diagnosis and the outcome of therapy, necessitating analysis of tumor cell subsets within the tumor mass. Elevated expression of hyaluronan (HA) and HA receptors, receptor for HA-mediated motility (RHAMM)/HA-mediated motility receptor and cluster designation 44 (CD44), in breast tumors correlates with poor outcome. We hypothesized that a probe for detecting HA-HA receptor interactions may reveal breast cancer (BCa) cell heterogeneity relevant to tumor progression. A fluorescent HA (F-HA) probe containing a mixture of polymer sizes typical of tumor microenvironments (10-480 kDa), multiplexed profiling, and flow cytometry were used to monitor HA binding to BCa cell lines of different molecular subtypes. Formulae were developed to quantify binding heterogeneity and to measure invasion in vivo. Two subsets exhibiting differential binding (HA-/low vs. HAhigh) were isolated and characterized for morphology, growth, and invasion in culture and as xenografts in vivo. F-HA-binding amounts and degree of heterogeneity varied with BCa subtype, were highest in the malignant basal-like cell lines, and decreased upon reversion to a nonmalignant phenotype. Binding amounts correlated with CD44 and RHAMM displayed but binding heterogeneity appeared to arise from a differential ability of HA receptor-positive subpopulations to interact with F-HA. HAhigh subpopulations exhibited significantly higher local invasion and lung micrometastases but, unexpectedly, lower proliferation than either unsorted parental cells or the HA-/low subpopulation. Querying F-HA binding to aggressive tumor cells reveals a previously undetected form of heterogeneity that predicts invasive/metastatic behavior and that may aid both early identification of cancer patients susceptible tometastasis, and detection/therapy of invasive BCa subpopulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 29 2014


  • Heterogeneity index
  • Hyaluronan binding
  • Tumor cell heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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