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The growth and progression of many cancers is thought to be driven by small subpopulations of cancer stem cells (CSC). Long-term cultures of CSC have been established to develop therapeutic strategies aimed at eradicating these tumorigenic cells. To evaluate the contribution of CSC to the progression of prostate cancer we isolated a CD44+CD24- tumor cell population from the DU145 cell line, derived from a brain metastasis of human prostate carcinoma, and established their CSC properties. The behaviour of selected CSC was then investigated with respect to the bulk DU145 cells. Interestingly, CSC were able to generate very aggressive tumors in immunodeficient mice, but this capacity was interfered by the presence of differentiated DU145 cells, resulting in the growth of scarcely aggressive tumors. To understand the influence of DU145 cells on CSC we performed co-culture experiments, demonstrating that signals released from differentiated tumor cells interfered with CSC acquisition of an aggressive phenotype. Our findings highlight that the fate of prostate CSC can be controlled by microenvironmental signals that restrain CSC from contributing to prostate cancer progression. Finally, we identified several molecules possibly involved in this cell-to-cell signaling, hypothesizing their potential value as novel prognostic markers or therapeutic targets. To investigate the cellular response involved in tumorigenesis both at the level of gene expression and at the pre-mRNA splicing level we performed a whole genome microarray analysis of two paradigmatic experimental conditions, DU145 cells and their selected CSC.

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