Transient commensal clonal interactions can drive tumor metastasis

Suha Naffar-Abu Amara, Hendrik J. Kuiken, Laura M. Selfors, Timothy Butler, Marco L. Leung, Cheuk T. Leung, Elaine P. Kuhn, Teodora Kolarova, Carina Hage, Kripa Ganesh, Richard Panayiotou, Rosemary Foster, Bo R. Rueda, Athena Aktipis, Paul Spellman, Tan A. Ince, Joanne Xiu, Matthew Oberley, Zoran Gatalica, Nicholas NavinGordon B. Mills, Rodrick T. Bronson, Joan S. Brugge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The extent and importance of functional heterogeneity and crosstalk between tumor cells is poorly understood. Here, we describe the generation of clonal populations from a patient-derived ovarian clear cell carcinoma model which forms malignant ascites and solid peritoneal tumors upon intraperitoneal transplantation in mice. The clonal populations are engineered with secreted Gaussia luciferase to monitor tumor growth dynamics and tagged with a unique DNA barcode to track their fate in multiclonal mixtures during tumor progression. Only one clone, CL31, grows robustly, generating exclusively malignant ascites. However, multiclonal mixtures form large solid peritoneal metastases, populated almost entirely by CL31, suggesting that transient cooperative interclonal interactions are sufficient to promote metastasis of CL31. CL31 uniquely harbors ERBB2 amplification, and its acquired metastatic activity in clonal mixtures is dependent on transient exposure to amphiregulin, which is exclusively secreted by non-tumorigenic clones. Amphiregulin enhances CL31 mesothelial clearance, a prerequisite for metastasis. These findings demonstrate that transient, ostensibly innocuous tumor subpopulations can promote metastases via “hit-and-run” commensal interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5799
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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