Collagen Matrix Density Drives the Metabolic Shift in Breast Cancer Cells

Brett A. Morris, Brian Burkel, Suzanne M. Ponik, Jing Fan, John S. Condeelis, Julio A. Aguire-Ghiso, James Castracane, John M. Denu, Patricia J. Keely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Increased breast density attributed to collagen I deposition is associated with a 4–6 fold increased risk of developing breast cancer. Here, we assessed cellular metabolic reprogramming of mammary carcinoma cells in response to increased collagen matrix density using an in vitro 3D model. Our initial observations demonstrated changes in functional metabolism in both normal mammary epithelial cells and mammary carcinoma cells in response to changes in matrix density. Further, mammary carcinoma cells grown in high density collagen matrices displayed decreased oxygen consumption and glucose metabolism via the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle compared to cells cultured in low density matrices. Despite decreased glucose entry into the TCA cycle, levels of glucose uptake, cell viability, and ROS were not different between high and low density matrices. Interestingly, under high density conditions the contribution of glutamine as a fuel source to drive the TCA cycle was significantly enhanced. These alterations in functional metabolism mirrored significant changes in the expression of metabolic genes involved in glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation, and the serine synthesis pathway. This study highlights the broad importance of the collagen microenvironment to cellular expression profiles, and shows that changes in density of the collagen microenvironment can modulate metabolic shifts of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-156
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Breast cancer
  • Collagen
  • Matrix density
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Collagen Matrix Density Drives the Metabolic Shift in Breast Cancer Cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this