• Telocytes;
  • reconstituted breast cancer tissue;
  • collagen/Matrigel scaffolds;
  • stromal cells;
  • self-assembly


Telocyte (TC) as a special stromal cell exists in mammary gland and might play an important role in the balance of epithelium-stroma of mammary gland. Considering that different types of breast interstitial cells influence the development and progression of breast cancer, TCs may have its distinct role in this process. We here studied the roles of TCs in the self-assembly of reconstituted breast cancer tissue. We co-cultured primary isolated TCs and other breast stromal cells with breast cancer EMT-6 cells in collagen/Matrigel scaffolds to reconstitute breast cancer tissue in vitro. Using histology methods, we investigated the immunohistochemical characteristics and potential functions of TCs in reconstituted breast cancer tissue. TCs in primary mammary gland stromal cells with long and thin overlapping cytoplasmic processes, expressed c-kit/CD117, CD34 and vimentin in reconstitute breast cancer tissue. The transmission electron microscopy showed that the telocyte-like cells closely communicated with breast cancer cells as well as other stromal cells, and might serve as a bridge that directly linked the adjacent cells through membrane-to-membrane contact. Compared with cancer tissue sheets of EMT-6 alone, PCNA proliferation index analysis and TUNEL assay showed that TCs and other breast stromal cells facilitated the formation of typical nest structure, promoted the proliferation of breast cancer cells, and inhibited their apoptosis. In conclusion, we successfully reconstituted breast cancer tissue in vitro, and it seems to be attractive that TCs had potential functions in self-assembly of EMT-6/stromal cells reconstituted breast cancer tissue.