, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 235-252
Date: 04 Jun 2010

Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition Traits in Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines Parallel the CD44hi/CD24lo/- Stem Cell Phenotype in Human Breast Cancer

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Abstract

We review here the recently emerging relationship between epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and breast cancer stem cells (BCSC), and provide analyses of published data on human breast cancer cell lines, supporting their utility as a model for the EMT/BCSC state. Genome-wide transcriptional profiling of these cell lines has confirmed the existence of a subgroup with mesenchymal tendencies and enhanced invasive properties (‘Basal B’/Mesenchymal), distinct from subgroups with either predominantly luminal (‘Luminal’) or mixed basal/luminal (‘Basal A’) features (Neve et al. Cancer Cell, 2006). A literature-derived EMT gene signature has shown specific enrichment within the Basal B subgroup of cell lines, consistent with their over-expression of various EMT transcriptional drivers. Basal B cell lines are found to resemble BCSC, being CD44highCD24low. Moreover, gene products that distinguish Basal B from Basal A and Luminal cell lines (Basal B Discriminators) showed close concordance with those that define BCSC isolated from clinical material, as reported by Shipitsin et al. (Cancer Cell, 2007). CD24 mRNA levels varied across Basal B cell lines, correlating with other Basal B Discriminators. Many gene products correlating with CD24 status in Basal B cell lines were also differentially expressed in isolated BCSC. These findings confirm and extend the importance of the cellular product of the EMT with Basal B cell lines, and illustrate the value of analysing these cell lines for new leads that may improve breast cancer outcomes. Gene products specific to Basal B cell lines may serve as tools for the detection, quantification, and analysis of BCSC/EMT attributes.