Ameloblastoma is a benign tumor of the odontogenic epithelium with several histological subtypes. All subtypes of ameloblastoma contain abundant stroma; the tumor cells invade collectively into the surrounding tissues without losing intratumor cell attachments. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating ameloblastoma invasion remain unclear. Here, we evaluated the functional significance of the interactions between ameloblastoma tumor cells and stromal fibroblasts on collective cellular invasion using a three-dimensional cultivation method, double-layered collagen gel hemisphere (DL-CGH) culture. The AM-1 plexiform and AM-3 follicular human ameloblastoma cell lines and HFF-2 human fibroblasts were labeled with GFP and DsRed, respectively. Collective cellular invasion of ameloblastoma cells was assessed in the presence or absence of fibroblasts. Notably, without fibroblasts, AM-1 cells formed sharp, plexiform-like invasive processes, whereas AM-3 cells formed a series of blunt processes often observed during collective migration. In comparison, under the cocultures with HFF-2 fibroblasts, AM-3 cells formed tuft-like invasive processes and collectively invaded into outer layer more than that observed with AM-1 cells. Moreover, HFF-2 fibroblasts localized to the tips of the invasive tumor processes. These findings suggest that tumor-associated cells assist tumor cell invasion. Microscopic analysis of sectioned three-dimensional cultures revealed that AM-3/HFF-2 hemispheres were histologically similar to follicular ameloblastoma tumor samples. Therefore, our findings suggest that ameloblastoma subtypes exhibit distinct invasion patterns and that fibroblasts promote collective tumor invasion in follicular ameloblastoma.
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