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Single-Cell Secretion Analysis in the Engineered Tumor Microenvironment Reveals Differential Modulation of Macrophage Immune Responses

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journal contribution
posted on 26.02.2021, 22:29 authored by Linmei Li, Weiwei Shi, Meimei Liu, Xue Bai, Yanting Sun, Xue Zhu, Haoran Su, Yahui Ji, Fengjiao Zhu, Xianming Liu, Yong Luo, Tingjiao Liu, Bingcheng Lin, Yao Lu
It is increasingly recognized that the cellular microenvironment plays critical roles in regulating the fate and physiology of cells. Despite recent advancements in single-cell analysis technologies, engineering and integration of the microenvironment for single-cell analysis platforms remain limited. Here, we report a single-cell cytokine secretion analysis platform that integrated both the three-dimensional cell culture and the primary oral squamous cell carcinoma tumor cell co-culture to provide both physical and physiological cues for single cells to be analyzed. We apply the platform to investigate the immune responses of human macrophages stimulated with the ligand of toll-like receptor 4 lipopolysaccharide. Notably, we observe the differential modulation effect in cytokine secretions by the tumor microenvironment, in which antitumor cytokine TNF-a secretion was attenuated, and protumor cytokine IL-6 would increase. The differential modulation effect is conserved from cell line-derived macrophages to primary macrophages derived from healthy donors. Immunofluorescence staining further reveals that ∼50% of macrophage cells could be polarized from M1 to the M2 phenotype within 12 h in the engineered tumor microenvironment. This work demonstrates the significance of the cell microenvironment toward single-cell analysis, which could help to evaluate how immune cells will respond in the complex microenvironment more accurately.

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