Model prediction and validation of an order mechanism controlling the spatiotemporal phenotype of early hepatocellular carcinoma. (English) Zbl 1395.92078

Summary: Recently, hepatocyte-sinusoid alignment (HSA) has been identified as a mechanism that supports the coordination of hepatocytes during liver regeneration to reestablish a functional micro-architecture [S. Hoehme et al. “Prediction and validation of cell alignment along microvessels as order principle to restore tissue architecture in liver regeneration”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, No. 23, 10371–10376 (2010; doi:10.1073/pnas.0909374107)]. HSA means that hepatocytes preferentially align along the closest micro-vessels. Here, we studied whether this mechanism is still active in early hepatocellular tumors. The same agent-based spatiotemporal model that previously correctly predicted HSA in liver regeneration was further developed to simulate scenarios in early tumor development, when individual initiated hepatocytes gain increased proliferation capacity. The model simulations were performed under conditions of realistic liver micro-architectures obtained from 3D reconstructions of confocal laser scanning micrographs. Interestingly, the established model predicted that initiated hepatocytes at first arrange in elongated patterns. Only when the tumor progresses to cell numbers of approximately 4000, does it adopt spherical structures. This prediction may have relevant consequences, since elongated tumors may reach critical structures faster, such as larger vessels, compared to a spherical tumor of similar cell number. Interestingly, this model prediction was confirmed by analysis of the spatial organization of initiated hepatocytes in a rat liver tumor initiation study using single doses of 250 mg/kg of the genotoxic carcinogen \(N\)-nitrosomorpholine (NNM). Indeed, small clusters of GST-P positive cells induced by NNM were elongated, almost columnar, while larger GDT-P positive foci of approximately the size of liver lobuli adopted spherical shapes. From simulations testing numerous possible mechanisms, only HSA could explain the experimentally observed initial deviation from spherical shape. The present study demonstrates that the architecture of small cell clusters of hepatocytes early after initiation is still controlled by physiological mechanisms. However, this coordinating influence is lost when the tumor grows to approximately 4000 cells, leading to further growth in spherical shape. Our findings stress the potential importance of organ micro-architecture in understanding tumor phenotypes.


92C50 Medical applications (general)
92C37 Cell biology


CellSys; SuperLU; TiQuant
Full Text: DOI


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