Selection of radioresistant tumor cells and presence of ALDH1 activity in vitro

Julia Mihatsch, Mahmoud Toulany, Petra M Bareiss, Sabrina Grimm, Claudia Lengerke, Rainer Kehlbach, H Peter Rodemann
Radiotherapy and Oncology 2011, 99 (3): 300-6

BACKGROUND: Tumor resistance to radiotherapy has been hypothesized to be mediated by a tumor subpopulation, called cancer stem cells (CSCs). Based on the proposed function of CSCs in radioresistance, we explored the cancer stem cell properties of cells selected for radioresistance phenotype.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A549 and SK-BR-3 cells were radioselected with four single doses of 4 or 3 Gy in intervals of 10-12 days and used for colony formation assay and γ-H2AX foci formation assay. Expression of putative stem cell markers, i.e. Sox2, Oct4, ALDH1, and CD133 were analyzed using Western blotting. A549 and SK-BR-3 cells sorted based on their ALDH1 activity were analyzed in clonogenic survival assays.

RESULTS: Radioselected A549 and SK-BR-3 cells (A549-R, SK-BR-3-R) showed increased radioresistance and A549-R cells presented enhanced repair of DNA-double strand breaks. PI3K inhibition significantly reduced radioresistance of A549-R cells. Cell line specific differences in the expression of the putative CSC markers Sox2 and Oct4 were observed when parental and radioselected cells were compared but could not be directly correlated to the radioresistant phenotype. However, enzyme activity of the putative stem cell marker ALDH1 showed a correlation to radioresistance.

CONCLUSIONS: Subpopulations of pooled radioresistant colonies, selected by various radiation exposures were analyzed for the presence of putative stem cell markers. Although the pattern of Sox2, Oct4, and CD133 expression was not generally associated with radioresistance, presence of ALDH1 seems to be indicative for subpopulations with increased radioresistance.

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