JOURNAL ARTICLE

Tumor initiating cells: development and critical characterization of a model derived from the A431 carcinoma cell line forming spheres in suspension

Ileana Bortolomai, Silvana Canevari, Ileana Facetti, Loris De Cecco, Giancarlo Castellano, Alberto Zacchetti, Malcolm R Alison, Silvia Miotti
Cell Cycle 2010 March 15, 9 (6): 1194-206
20237414
To investigate the tumor fraction with cancer stem/tumor initiating cell (CSC/TIC) characteristics, we tested the human cervical carcinoma cell lines A431, Caski and SiHa, by growth as non-adherent spheres in specific media and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymatic activity. A good correlation between the two parameters was observed and the highest levels were observed in A431 cell line that was selected for characterization of the CSC/TIC fraction. A431 parental cells already displayed characteristics common to CSC/TIC, such as sphere forming efficiency, adherent holoclone formation and high ALDH activity. Non-adherent spheres maintained or increased these properties, and, in particular, ALDH-positive fraction increased from 46 to 65% and a transient induction of stem cell markers such as Nanog, Nestin and Oct4 was observed. Furthermore, a significant increase of paraclone forming cells was observed, suggesting that differentiation took place inside sphere cell populations. As compared to parental cells, spheres were characterized by: (1) a ten-fold higher verapamil-sensitive side population fraction; (2) the appearance of a podoplanin-positive subpopulation characterized by a small cell size; (3) the ability to propagate tumors in nude mice at a lower cell dose. The global gene expression analysis demonstrated a strong and reversible modulation of 'sphere' phenotype in comparison to parental and sphere cells re-induced to adherent conditions. All together our results indicated that the growth of A431 cells as a non-adherent sphere was not sufficient by itself to define a stem-like population, but it was essential for the emergence of a small population of tumor cells with CSC properties.

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