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Transwell® Invasion Assays

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Cell Migration

Part of the book series: Methods in Molecular Biology ((MIMB,volume 769))


The need to identify inhibitors of cancer invasion has driven the development of quantitative in vitro invasion assays. The most common assays used are based on the original Boyden assay system. Today commercially available plastic inserts for multi-well plates, which possess a cell-permeable membrane, as typified by Transwell® Permeable Supports, permit accurate repeatable invasion assays. When placed in the well of a multi-well tissue culture plate these inserts create a two-chamber system separated by the cell-permeable membrane. To create an invasion assay the pores in the membrane are blocked with a gel composed of extracellular matrix that is meant to mimic the typical matrices that tumour cells encounter during the invasion process in vivo. By placing the cells on one side of the gel and a chemoattractant on the other side of the gel, invasion is determined by counting those cells that have traversed the cell-permeable membrane having invaded towards the higher concentration of chemoattractant. In this chapter, in addition to protocols for performing Transwell invasion assays, there is consideration of the limitations of current assay designs with regard to available matrices and the absence of tumour microenvironment cells.

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I wish to thank Ms Anne Weston, Electron Microscopy Unit, London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK who performed all electron microscopy processing and imaging.

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Correspondence to John Marshall .

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Marshall, J. (2011). Transwell® Invasion Assays. In: Wells, C., Parsons, M. (eds) Cell Migration. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 769. Humana Press.

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  • Publisher Name: Humana Press

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-61779-206-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-61779-207-6

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