Label-free profiling of cell dynamics: A sequence of impedance-based assays to estimate tumor cell invasivenessin vitro

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Abstract

Dynamic properties of cancer cells, most notably their ability to migrate, have been correlated successfully with their invasive nature in vivo. To establish a stronger experimental basis for such a correlation we subjected five different cancer cell lines of well-defined metastatic potential to a sequence of three independent assays reporting on three different aspects of cell dynamics, namely (1) the kinetics of cell spreading, (2) cell shape fluctuations, and (3) cell migration. The sequentially applied assays correspond to different measuring modes of the well-established ECIS technique that is based on non-invasive and label-free impedance readings of planar gold-film electrodes that serve as the growth substrate for the cells under study. Every individual assay returned a characteristic parameter describing the behavior of the cell lines in that particular assay quantitatively. The parameters of all three assays were ranked to establish individual profiles of cell dynamics for every cell line that correlate favorably with the cells' invasive properties. The sequence of impedance-based assays described here requires only small cell populations (< 10.000 cells), it is highly automated and easily adapted to 96-well formats. It provides an in-depth dynamic profile of adherent cells that might be useful in other areas besides cancer research as well.

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