Human Colorectal Cancer Infrastructure Constructed by the Glycocalyx.J Clin Med 2019; 8(9)JC
Cancer cells can survive and grow via angiogenesis. An alternative but controversial theory is cancer cells may grow via vasculogenic mimicry (VM), in which the cancer cells themselves construct vessel-like channels that are considered a leading cause of drug resistance. The dynamic functions of the glycocalyx (GCX), a meshwork composed of proteoglycans and glycoproteins that surrounds cell membranes, have been observed in endothelial cells within tumors. However, the actual structural shape formed by the GCX in human patients remains unclear. Here, we visualized the three-dimensional (3D) network structure constructed by bulky GCX in human colorectal cancer (CRC) patients using scanning electron microscopy with lanthanum nitrate staining. The network structure extended throughout the cancer cell nest, opening into capillaries, with a tunnel channel that exhibited a net- and spongy-like ultrastructure. The expression of endothelial and cancer-specific GCX-binding lectins was dramatically increased in the interstitial spaces between cancer cells. Even accounting for the presence of artifacts resulting from sample preparation methods, the intercellular tunnels appeared to be coated with the bulky GCX. Further, this 3D network structure was also observed in the tumors of ApcMin/+ mice. In conclusion, the bulky GCX modifies the network structure of CRCs in human and mice.