Mol Cancer Res 2020 03 20;18(3):477-487. Epub 2019 Nov 20.
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
Metastasis of cancer cells is multi-step process and dissemination is an initial step. Here we report a tamoxifen-controllable transgenic zebrafish line as a new animal model for metastasis research, and demonstrate that this model can serve as a novel platform for discovery of antimetastasis drugs targeting metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. By crossing with (a homolog of hyperactive form of EGFR) transgenic zebrafish, which develops hepatocellular carcinoma, approximately 80% of the double transgenic zebrafish showed spontaneous cell dissemination of mCherry-labeled hepatocytes from the liver to the entire abdomen region and the tail region. The dissemination is accomplished in 5 days through induction of an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Using this model, we conducted drug screening and identified three hit drugs. One of them, adrenosterone, an inhibitor for hydroxysteroid (11-beta) dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1), has a suppressor effect on cell dissemination in this model. Pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of HSD11β1 suppressed metastatic dissemination of highly metastatic human cell lines in a zebrafish xenotransplantation model. Through downregulation of Snail and Slug, adrenosterone-treated cells recovered expression of E-cadherin and other epithelial markers and lost partial expression of mesenchymal markers compared with vehicle-treated cells. Taken together, our model offers a useful platform for the discovery of antimetastasis drugs targeting metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. IMPLICATIONS: This study describes a transgenic zebrafish model for liver tumor metastasis and it has been successfully used for identification of some drugs to inhibit metastatic dissemination of human cancer cells.