Cellular and molecular heterogeneity within tumors has long been associated with the progression of cancer to an aggressive phenotype and a poor prognosis. However, how such intratumoral heterogeneity contributes to the invasiveness of cancer is largely unknown. Here, using a tumor bioengineering approach, we investigate the interaction between molecular subtypes within bladder microtumors and the corresponding effects on their invasiveness. Our results reveal heterogeneous microtumors formed by multiple molecular subtypes possess enhanced invasiveness compared to individual cells, even when both cells are not invasive individually. To examine the molecular mechanism of intratumoral heterogeneity mediated invasiveness, live single cell biosensing, RNA interference, and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approaches were applied to investigate and control the composition of the microtumors. An agent-based computational model was also developed to evaluate the influence of NOTCH1 variation on DLL4 expression within a microtumor. The data indicate that intratumoral variation in NOTCH1 expression can lead to upregulation of DLL4 expression within the microtumor and enhancement of microtumor invasiveness. Overall, our results reveal a novel mechanism of heterogeneity mediated invasiveness through intratumoral variation of gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3084
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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