Single cell study of adipose tissue mediated lipid droplet formation and biochemical alterations in breast cancer cells
Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer and a negative prognostic factor for cancer recurrence and survival. Several studies demonstrated that aggressive breast tumor cells contain higher numbers of intracellular lipid droplets (LDs). Here we applied simultaneous visualization, identification and quantification of the lipid accumulation in lipid droplets (LDs) of aggressive, human triple-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells treated with adipose tissue-conditioned medium (ACM) derived from overweight and obese patients. In addition to Oil Red O and AdipoRed fluorescent staining, label-free confocal Raman microspectroscopy (CRM) has been applied. CRM enables imaging of cell compartments as well as quantification and monitoring of specific biomolecules and metabolic processes on a single cell level. Interestingly, breast cancer cells incubated with ACM showed a significantly higher number of intracellular LDs. Cultivation of breast tumor cells with ACM of obese patients induced the formation of LDs with a 20-fold higher lipid concentration than cultivation with basal medium. This is in line with the significantly higher levels of NEFAs (non-esterified fatty acids) detected in the ACM obtained from obese patient compared to ACM obtained from overweight patients or basal medium. Further, by principal component analysis, we identified a significant increase in unsaturation, esterification and lipid to protein ratio in LDs in breast cancer cells incubated with ACM. CRM analyses might function as a valuable diagnostic tool to identify metabolic alterations in biological samples which in turn could provide more detailed insights in the pathogenesis of breast cancer in association with obesity.