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Cellular Metabolic Heterogeneity In Vivo Is Recapitulated in Tumor Organoids


Sharick JT , Jeffery JJ , Karim MR , Walsh CM , Esbona K , Cook RS , Skala MC , . Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.). 2019 5 8; 21(6). 615-626


Heterogeneous populations within a tumor have varying metabolic profiles, which can muddle the interpretation of bulk tumor imaging studies of treatment response. Although methods to study tumor metabolism at the cellular level are emerging, these methods provide a single time point “snapshot” of tumor metabolism and require a significant time and animal burden while failing to capture the longitudinal metabolic response of a single tumor to treatment. Here, we investigated a novel method for longitudinal, single-cell tracking of metabolism across heterogeneous tumor cell populations using optical metabolic imaging (OMI), which measures autofluorescence of metabolic coenzymes as a report of metabolic activity. We also investigated whether in vivo cellular metabolic heterogeneity can be accurately captured using tumor-derived three-dimensional organoids in a genetically engineered mouse model of breast cancer. OMI measurements of response to paclitaxel and the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase inhibitor XL147 in tumors and organoids taken at single cell resolution revealed parallel shifts in metaboltruic heterogeneity. Interestingly, these previously unappreciated heterogeneous metabolic responses in tumors and organoids could not be attributed to tumor cell fate or varying leukocyte content within the microenvironment, suggesting that heightened metabolic heterogeneity upon treatment is largely due to heterogeneous metabolic shifts within tumor cells. Together, these studies show that OMI revealed remarkable heterogeneity in response to treatment, which could provide a novel approach to predict the presence of potentially unresponsive tumor cell subpopulations lurking within a largely responsive bulk tumor population, which might otherwise be overlooked by traditional measurements.