Single-cell morphology encodes metastatic potential

Pei Hsun Wu, Daniele M. Gilkes, Jude M. Phillip, Akshay Narkar, Thomas Wen Tao Cheng, Jorge Marchand, Meng Horng Lee, Rong Li, Denis Wirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A central goal of precision medicine is to predict disease outcomes and design treatments based on multidimensional information from afflicted cells and tissues. Cell morphology is an emergent readout of the molecular underpinnings of a cell's functions and, thus, can be used as a method to define the functional state of an individual cell. We measured 216 features derived from cell and nucleus morphology for more than 30,000 breast cancer cells. We find that single cell-derived clones (SCCs) established from the same parental cells exhibit distinct and heritable morphological traits associated with genomic (ploidy) and transcriptomic phenotypes. Using unsupervised clustering analysis, we find that the morphological classes of SCCs predict distinct tumorigenic and metastatic potentials in vivo using multiple mouse models of breast cancer. These findings lay the groundwork for using quantitative morpho-profiling in vitro as a potentially convenient and economical method for phenotyping function in cancer in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaaw6938
JournalScience Advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 22 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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