Adhesion to the Brain Endothelium Selects Breast Cancer Cells with Brain Metastasis Potential

Bai Zhang, Xueyi Li, Kai Tang, Ying Xin, Guanshuo Hu, Yufan Zheng, Keming Li, Cunyu Zhang, Youhua Tan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Tumor cells metastasize from a primary lesion to distant organs mainly through hematogenous dissemination, in which tumor cell re-adhesion to the endothelium is essential before extravasating into the target site. We thus hypothesize that tumor cells with the ability to adhere to the endothelium of a specific organ exhibit enhanced metastatic tropism to this target organ. This study tested this hypothesis and developed an in vitro model to mimic the adhesion between tumor cells and brain endothelium under fluid shear stress, which selected a subpopulation of tumor cells with enhanced adhesion strength. The selected cells up-regulated the genes related to brain metastasis and exhibited an enhanced ability to transmigrate through the blood–brain barrier. In the soft microenvironments that mimicked brain tissue, these cells had elevated adhesion and survival ability. Further, tumor cells selected by brain endothelium adhesion expressed higher levels of MUC1, VCAM1, and VLA-4, which were relevant to breast cancer brain metastasis. In summary, this study provides the first piece of evidence to support that the adhesion of circulating tumor cells to the brain endothelium selects the cells with enhanced brain metastasis potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7087
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2023


  • biomechanics
  • brain metastasis
  • endothelial adhesion
  • fluid shear stress
  • mechanobiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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