Int J Med Sci 2019; 16(1):33-42. doi:10.7150/ijms.28135 This issue

Research Paper

Complete Disaggregation of MCF-7-derived Breast Tumour Spheroids with Very Low Concentrations of α-Mangostin Loaded in CD44 Thioaptamer-tagged Nanoparticles

Francesca Bonafè, Claudia Pazzini, Silvia Marchionni, Carlo Guarnieri, Claudio Muscari

Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences (DIBINEM), University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy.

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Bonafè F, Pazzini C, Marchionni S, Guarnieri C, Muscari C. Complete Disaggregation of MCF-7-derived Breast Tumour Spheroids with Very Low Concentrations of α-Mangostin Loaded in CD44 Thioaptamer-tagged Nanoparticles. Int J Med Sci 2019; 16(1):33-42. doi:10.7150/ijms.28135. Available from

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Background: α-Mangostin (αMG) is a natural substance that exerts a wide range of antitumor effects. Recently, we described that free αMG was able to dissociate multicellular tumour spheroids (MCTSs) generated from breast carcinoma cells and to reduce their cellular viability and motility. Here, αMG was encapsulated into lipidic nanoparticles (NPs), conjugated or not to a CD44 thioaptamer, and the anticancer action evaluated against MCF-7 breast MCTSs.

Methods: NPs containing αMG were formulated with a core of polylactic-co-glycolyc acid. Some of them were decorated with a CD44 thioaptamer using as catalysts 1-ethyl-3- (3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide and N-hydroxysuccinimide. Both size and density of MCF-7-derived MCTSs were monitored during 72 h of treatment with NPs carrying 0.1, 0.5 and 1.0 μg/ml final concentrations of αMG. MCTSs were cultured on Matrigel or gelatine to better simulate the extracellular environment.

Results: The NPs without thioaptamer and conveying 0.1 μg/ml αMG caused a significant dissociation of the MCTSs grown in gelatine after 24 h of treatment (p < 0.01). The most significant disaggregation of MCTSs was obtained using NPs carrying 0.5 μg/ml αMG (p < 0.01). A similar dissociating effect was observed when MCTSs were cultured in Matrigel under the same conditions for 48 - 72 h. By contrast, only concentrations over 1.0 μg/ml of free αMG were able to provoke a damage to MCTSs, consisting in a substantial reduction in their size (p < 0.05). Since the MCTS dissociation induced by αMG-loaded NPs occurred only in the presence of Matrigel or gelatine, an impairment of cell contacts to collagen fibres was likely responsible of this effect. Finally, the treatment of MCTSs with αMG-loaded NPs that were conjugated to the CD44 thioaptamer caused a similar decrease in density but a lower expansion of the spheroid, suggesting that a significant number of cells were died or arrested in cycle.

Conclusion: Very low concentrations of αMG delivered by lipidic NPs are sufficient to provoke a substantial disaggregation of MCF-7 MCTSs that involves cell-to-collagen contacts. Similarly, the treatment of MCTSs with NPs conjugated to a CD44 thioaptamer leads to MCTS dissociation but through a more damaging action that causes also a reduction in cell number.

Keywords: α-mangostin, multicellular tumour spheroid, breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, nanoparticle, thioaptamer.