, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 749–761 | Cite as

TSSC3 overexpression reduces stemness and induces apoptosis of osteosarcoma tumor-initiating cells

  • Yusheng Huang
  • Huanzi Dai
  • Qiao-Nan Guo
Original Paper


Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common primary bone tumor in children and adolescents, typically presenting with poor prognosis. Recent studies suggested that tumor initiating cells (T-ICs) drive tumor formation and relapse or metastasis and are relatively resistant to cell death induced by conventional chemo- and radiotherapies. Therefore, the poor prognosis of OS appears to be associated with T-ICs. Here, we enriched T-ICs in OS cell lines and evaluated whether the imprinted gene TSSC3 (tumor-suppressing STF cDNA 3) associated with apoptosis could affect T-ICs in OS. Sarcosphere selection and serial clone-forming unit assays were successfully used to enrich T-ICs from OS cell lines. Enrichment of T-ICs from a malignantly transformed hFOB1.19 osteoblast cell line (MThFOB1.19) indicated that OS T-ICs could originate from differentiated cells, and most of these MThFOB1.19 cells showed stem-like features. TSSC3 was expressed at a low level in T-ICs, while overexpression of TSSC3 could efficiently downregulate the expression of stem cell markers Nanog, Oct4 and Sox2 in T-ICs and decrease the clone formation rate, as well as downregulate tumorigenesis in MThFOB1.19 cells, supporting a suppressive role for TSSC3 in OS T-ICs. Furthermore, overexpression of TSSC3 was found to induce apoptosis of OS T-ICs through increasing cleaved caspase-3 (active form), increasing the release of Cyt c and decreasing pro-caspase-9 (pro-enzyme form), as well as disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ). Taken together, our findings provide preliminary evidence that TSSC3 inhibits OS tumorigenicity through reducing stemness and promoting apoptosis of T-ICs. Thus, targeting TSSC3 may be a promising approach to suppressing tumorigenicity in OS.


Tumor-initiating cell Apoptosis TSSC3 Osteosarcoma 



Membrane potential (mitochondrial)


Dulbecco’s minimal essential medium


Fetal bovine serum




Propidium iodide


Tumor initiating cells


Tumor stem cells


Tumor-suppressing STF cDNA 3



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program, No. 2010CB529402) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30971139 and No. 81172554). We thank Professor Cheng Qian (Institute for Pathology and Cancer Research, Southwest Hospital, Chongqing, China) for kindly providing the GeneSwitch™ system (Invitrogen, USA).

Conflict of interest

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Pathology and Southwest Cancer CenterSouthwest Hospital, Third Military Medical UniversityChongqingChina

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