Different Expression of Thyroid-Specific Proteins in Thyroid Cancer Cells between 2-Dimensional (2D) and 3-Dimensional (3D) Culture Environment

Ji Min Oh, Prakash Gangadaran, Ramya Lakshmi Rajendran, Chae Moon Hong, Jaetae Lee, Byeong Cheol Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The two-dimensional (2D) monolayer culture as a conventional method has been widely applied in molecular biology fields, but it has limited capability to recapitulate real cell environments, being prone to misinterpretation with poor prediction of in vivo behavior. Recently, the three-dimensional (3D) spheroid culture has been studied extensively. Spheroids are self-assembled cell aggregates that have biomimicry capabilities. The behavior of thyroid cancer under the 3D spheroid culture environment has been studied; however, there are no reports regarding differences in the degree of thyroid cancer cell differentiation under 2D and 3D culture conditions. This study investigated the expression of thyroid differentiation proteins related to iodide-metabolizing mechanisms in thyroid cancer cells under different culture conditions. Four thyroid cancer cell lines and one thyroid follicular epithelial cell line were grown in adherent 2D cell culture and 3D spheroid culture with agarose-coated plates. We observed changes in proliferation, hypoxia, extracellular matrix (ECM), cytoskeleton, thyroid-specific proteins, and thyroid transcription factors. All cell lines were successfully established in the spheroid following cell aggregation. Proliferation considerably decreased, while hypoxia-inducible factor 1-α(HIF1-α) was promoted in 3D spheroids; moreover, 3D spheroids with thyroid cancers showed diminished thyroid differentiation markers, but thyroid follicular epithelial cells revealed either a maintenance or weak decline of protein expression. We verified that the 3D spheroid culture environment can be similar to in vivo conditions because of its alterations in numerous cellular and functional activities, including morphology, cellular proliferation, viability, hypoxia, ECM, cytoskeleton, and thyroid differentiation, compared to the conventional 2D monolayer culture environment. An in vitro experimental study using 3D spheroid culture is ideal for the faster discovery of new drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3559
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • 3-dimensional culture
  • Hypoxia
  • thyroid cancers
  • Thyroid differentiation


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