Extensive characterization of sphere models established from colorectal cancer cell lines
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Links between cancer and stem cells have been proposed for many years. As the cancer stem cell (CSC) theory became widely studied, new methods were developed to culture and expand cancer cells with conserved determinants of “stemness”. These cells show increased ability to grow in suspension as spheres in serum-free medium supplemented with growth factors and chemicals. The physiological relevance of this phenomenon in established cancer cell lines remains unclear. Cell lines have traditionally been used to explore tumor biology and serve as preclinical models for the screening of potential therapeutic agents. Here, we grew cell-forming spheres (CFS) from 25 established colorectal cancer cell lines. The molecular and cellular characteristics of CFS were compared to the bulk of tumor cells. CFS could be isolated from 72 % of the cell lines. Both CFS and their parental CRC cell lines were highly tumorigenic. Compared to their parental cells, they showed similar expression of putative CSC markers. The ability of CRC cells to grow as CFS was greatly enhanced by prior treatment with 5-fluorouracil. At the molecular level, CFS and parental CRC cells showed identical gene mutations and very similar genomic profiles, although microarray analysis revealed changes in CFS gene expression that were independent of DNA copy-number. We identified a CFS gene expression signature common to CFS from all CRC cell lines, which was predictive of disease relapse in CRC patients. In conclusion, CFS models derived from CRC cell lines possess interesting phenotypic features that may have clinical relevance for drug resistance and disease relapse.
KeywordsColorectal cancer Colon cancer cell lines Spheres Microarray
Cancer stem cells
This work was supported by the ‘Carte d’Identité des Tumeurs’ (CIT) program (http://cit.ligue-cancer.net) from the Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer and by grants from the ‘Institut National du Cancer’ (INCa) (to A.D.). The A.D. group has the label “La Ligue Contre le Cancer”. A.C. is a recipient of an INCa fellowship (Institut National du Cancer). A.L. is a recipient of a MESR fellowship (Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de le Recherche.
Conflict of interest
No potential conflicts of interests were disclosed.
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