Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal malignancies, partly due to the dense desmoplasia and a lack of suitable model systems to study. In the present work, we developed a 3D heterospecies spheroid model to study the microenvironmental interactions between tumor cells and stellate cells which can also be employed to test therapeutic regimens. We set up monospheroids and heterospheroids made up from murine pancreatic stellate cells (mPSCs) and human PDAC cells (Panc1), which allowed for direct isolation of mRNA from a mixed cell population followed by an in silico separation of the RNA-seq reads. Global transcript level changes for cells in heterospheroids versus monospheroids were calculated, followed by gene set enrichment analysis and molecular subtype analysis. We observed an apparent shift of Panc1 from the classical to the squamous/basal-like phenotype upon co-culture with mPSCs. Moreover, mPSCs acquired a different cancer-associated fibroblast-related phenotype upon co-culture with Panc1. We analyzed the tumor cell-specific chemosensitivities towards gemcitabine, paclitaxel and SN38 and compared these to published pharmacotranscriptomic signatures. In conclusion, our heterospecies spheroid model reflected key aspects of PDAC and facilitated the study of intercellular interactions between tumor and stroma while additionally proving to be a good model for studying therapeutic responses.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.