Identification of brain tumour initiating cells using the stem cell marker aldehyde dehydrogenase

Seung Ah Choi, Ji Yeoun Lee, Ji Hoon Phi, Kyu-Chang Wang, Chul-Kee Park, Sung-Hye Park, Seung-Ki Kim
European Journal of Cancer 2014, 50 (1): 137-49
Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) has been identified in stem cells from both normal and cancerous tissues. This study aimed to evaluate the potential of ALDH as a universal brain tumour initiating cell (BTIC) marker applicable to primary brain tumours and their biological role in maintaining stem cell status. Cells from various primary brain tumours (24paediatric and 6 adult brain tumours) were stained with Aldefluor and sorted by flow cytometry. We investigated the impact of ALDH expression on BTIC characteristics in vitro and on tumourigenic potential in vivo. Primary brain tumours showed universal expression of ALDH, with 0.3-28.9% of the cells in various tumours identified as ALDH(+). The proportion of CD133(+) cells within ALDH(+) is higher than ALDH cells. ALDH(+) cells generate neurospheres with high proliferative potential, express neural stem cell markers and differentiate into multiple nervous system lineages. ALDH(+) cells tend to show high expression of induced pluripotent stem cell-related genes. Notably, targeted knockdown of ALDH1 by shRNA interference in BTICs potently disturbed their self-renewing ability. After 3months, ALDH(+) cells gave rise to tumours in 93% of mice whereas ALDH cells did not. The characteristic pathology of mice brain tumours from ALDH(+) cells was similar to that of human brain tumours, and these cells are highly proliferative in vivo. Our data suggest that primary brain tumours contain distinct subpopulations of cells that have high expression levels of ALDH and BTIC characteristics. ALDH might be a potential therapeutic target applicable to primary brain tumours.

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