Dishevelled 1-Regulated Superpotent Cancer Stem Cells Mediate Wnt Heterogeneity and Tumor Progression in Hepatocellular Carcinoma.
ABSTRACT: Various populations of cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been identified in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Wnt signaling is variably activated in HCC and regulates CSCs and tumorigenesis. We explored cell-to-cell Wnt and stemness heterogeneity in HCC by labeling freshly isolated cancer cells with a Wnt-specific reporter, thereby identifying a small subset (0.4%-8.9%) of Wnt-activityhigh cells. Further cellular subset analysis identified a refined subset of Wnt-activityhighALDH1+EpCAM+ triple-positive (TP) cells as the most stem-like, phenotypically plastic, and tumorigenic among all putative CSC populations. These TP "superpotent CSCs" (spCSCs) specifically upregulate the expression of dishevelled 1 (DVL1) through the antagonism between abnormal spindle-like microcephaly-associated (ASPM) and the ubiquitin ligase complex Cullin-3/KLHL-12. Subsequent functional and molecular studies revealed the role of DVL1 in controlling spCSCs and their tumorigenic potential. These findings provide the mechanistic basis of the Wnt and stemness heterogeneity in HCC and highlight the important role of DVL1high spCSCs in tumor progression.
Project description:Background:Cancer stem cells are the main reason of relapse, metastasis and resistance to anti-cancer therapies of Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an important part of the tumor microenvironment. MSCs have been demonstrated to be involved in drug resistance in tumor. How MSCs contribute to radiotherapy resistance of HCC is still indistinct. Methods:Flow cytometry analysis was performed to isolate CD133+ cells from HCC cell lines Huh7 and PLC. The stemness of Huh7-CD133 and PLC-CD133 those were co-cultured with IR-MSCs were investigated by Colony formation assay. Tumor formation in nude mice was used to explore the tumorigenicity of CD133+ cancer cells. The activating Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway in CSCs were also detected by RT-PCR and Western blotting. Results:We report that irradiated MSCs (IR-MSCs) could increase the ratio of CD133+ cells in hepatocellular carcinoma cells. IR-MSCs could promote stemness maintenance of HCC stem cells. After co-cultured with IR-MSCs, liver cancer stem cells (CSCs) presented increased colony formation ability and tumor formation ability. We also found IR-MSCs promoted Wnt expression of CSCs. Reverse suppression experiment showed that when Wnt inhibitor was added into the culture medium, the effect of IR-MSCs on stemness maintenance was counteracted. Conclusions:These data showed that IR-MSCs could support stemness maintenance of CSCs by activating Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway.
Project description:Identifying and sorting highly tumorigenic and metastatic tumor cells from a heterogeneous cell population is a daunting challenge. Here, we show that microfluidic devices can be used to sort marker-based heterogeneous cancer stem cells (CSC) into mechanically stiff and soft subpopulations. The isolated soft tumor cells (< 400 Pa) but not the stiff ones (> 700 Pa) can form a tumor in immunocompetent mice with 100 cells per inoculation. Notably, only the soft, but not the stiff cells, isolated from CD133<sup>+</sup> , ALDH<sup>+</sup> , or side population CSCs, are able to form a tumor with only 100 cells in NOD-SCID or immunocompetent mice. The Wnt signaling protein BCL9L is upregulated in soft tumor cells and regulates their stemness and tumorigenicity. Clinically, BCL9L expression is correlated with a worse prognosis. Our findings suggest that the intrinsic softness is a unique marker of highly tumorigenic and metastatic tumor cells.
Project description:The role of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in inducing the recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after radiofrequency ablation (RFA) remains unclear. Here, we found that a dramatic increase in plasma vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and an induction of local CD133+ CSCs are associated with early HCC recurrence, suggesting that VEGF expression and tumour stemness contribute to the relapse. In vitro studies demonstrated that VEGF, via activation of VEGFR2, increased the number of CD133+ CSCs and enhanced their capacity for self-renewal by inducing the expression of Nanog. In vivo studies further demonstrated that VEGF-treated CD133+ CSCs formed tumours larger than those developing from unstimulated cells and VEGF pre-treatment increased the tumorigenic cell frequency of primary HCC cells dependently on the presence of Nanog and VEGFR2. In HCC tissue derived from patients with early recurrence, almost all CD133+ cells were Nanog and p-VEGFR2 positive, suggesting that activation of VEGFR2 is critical for RFA-induced tumour stemness in HCC. In summary, RFA-induced VEGF promotes tumour stemness and accelerates tumourigenesis in HCC in a manner dependent on Nanog and VEGFR2, which is valuable for the prediction of HCC recurrence after RFA and the development of novel therapeutics.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive malignant disease with poor prognosis. Recent advances suggest the existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) within liver cancer, which are considered to be responsible for tumor relapse, metastasis, and chemoresistance. However, novel therapeutic approaches for eradicating CSCs are yet to be established. Here, we aimed to identify the role of glutaminase 1 (GLS1) in stemness, and the feasibility that GLS1 serves as a therapeutic target for elimination CSCs as well as the possible mechanism. METHODS:Publicly-available data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) was mined to unearth the association between GLS1 and stemness phenotype. Using big data, human tissues and multiple cell lines, we gained a general picture of GLS1 expression in HCC progression. We generated stable cell lines by lentiviral-mediated overexpression or CRISPR/Cas9-based knockout. Sphere formation assays and colony formation assays were employed to analyze the relationship between GLS1 and stemness. A series of bioinformatics analyses and molecular experiments including qRT-PCR, immunoblotting, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence were employed to investigate the role of GLS1 in regulating stemness in vitro and in vivo. FINDINGS:We observed GLS1 (both KGA and GAC isoform) is highly expressed in HCC, and that high expression of GAC predicts a poor prognosis. GLS1 is exclusively expressed in the mitochondrial matrix. Upregulation of GLS1 is positively associated with advanced clinicopathological features and stemness phenotype. Targeting GLS1 reduced the expression of stemness-related genes and suppressed CSC properties in vitro. We further found GLS1 regulates stemness properties via ROS/Wnt/?-catenin signaling and that GLS1 knockout inhibits tumorigenicity in vivo. INTERPRETATION:Targeting GLS1 attenuates stemness properties in HCC by increasing ROS accumulation and suppressing Wnt/?-catenin pathway, which implied that GLS1 could serve as a therapeutic target for elimination of CSCs.
Project description:Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the deadliest tumors, partly due to its intrinsic aggressiveness, metastatic potential, and chemoresistance of the contained cancer stem cells (CSCs). Pancreatic CSCs strongly rely on mitochondrial metabolism to maintain their stemness, therefore representing a putative target for their elimination. Since mitochondrial homeostasis depends on the tightly controlled balance between fusion and fission processes, namely mitochondrial dynamics, we aim to study this mechanism in the context of stemness. In human PDAC tissues, the mitochondrial fission gene <i>DNM1L</i> (DRP1) was overexpressed and positively correlated with the stemness signature. Moreover, we observe that primary human CSCs display smaller mitochondria and a higher DRP1/MFN2 expression ratio, indicating the activation of the mitochondrial fission. Interestingly, treatment with the DRP1 inhibitor mDivi-1 induced dose-dependent apoptosis, especially in CD133<sup>+</sup> CSCs, due to the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria and the subsequent energy crisis in this subpopulation. Mechanistically, mDivi-1 inhibited stemness-related features, such as self-renewal, tumorigenicity, and invasiveness and chemosensitized the cells to the cytotoxic effects of Gemcitabine. In summary, mitochondrial fission is an essential process for pancreatic CSCs and represents an attractive target for designing novel multimodal treatments that will more efficiently eliminate cells with high tumorigenic potential.
Project description:Three-dimensional cell culture methods are viable in vitro approaches that facilitate the examination of biological features cancer cells present in vivo. In this study, we demonstrate that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells in porous alginate scaffolds can generate organoid-like spheroids that mimic numerous features of glandular epithelium in vivo, such as acinar morphogenesis and apical expression patterns of EpCAM, a hepatic stem/progenitor cell marker highly expressed in a subset of HCC with stemness features. We show that the activation of Wnt/?-catenin signaling, an essential pathway for maintaining HCC stemness, is required for EpCAM(+) HCC spheroid formation as well as the maintenance of the acinous structure. Furthermore, we demonstrate that EpCAM(+) HCC cells cultured as spheroids are more sensitive to TGF/?-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition with highly tumorigenic and metastatic potential in vivo compared to conventional two-dimensional (2D) culture. In addition, HCC cells in EpCAM(+) spheroids are more resistant to chemotherapeutic agents than 2D-cultured cells. The alginate scaffold-based organotypic culture system is a promising, reliable, and easy system that can be configured into a high throughput fashion for the identification of critical signaling pathways and screening of molecular drug targets specific for HCC.
Project description:Circular RNA (circRNA) possesses great pre-clinical diagnostic and therapeutic potentials in multiple cancers. It has been reported playing roles in multiple malignant behaviors including proliferation, migration, metastasis and chemoresistance. However, the underlying correlation between circRNAs and cancer stem cells (CSCs) has not been reported yet. Methods: circZKSCAN1 level was detected in HCC tissue microarrays to clarify its prognostic values. Gain and loss function experiments were applied to investigate the role of circZKSCAN1 in HCC stemness. Bioinformatic analysis was used to predict the possible downstream RNA binding protein and further RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing was carried out to identify the RBP-regulated genes. Results: The absence of circZKSCAN1 endowed several malignant properties including cancer stemness and tightly correlated with worse overall and recurrence-free survival rate in HCC. Bioinformatics analysis and RNA immunoprecipitation-sequencing (RIP-seq) results revealed that circZKSCAN1 exerted its inhibitive role by competitively binding FMRP, therefore, block the binding between FMRP and ?-catenin-binding protein-cell cycle and apoptosis regulator 1 (CCAR1) mRNA, and subsequently restrain the transcriptional activity of Wnt signaling. In addition, RNA-splicing protein Quaking 5 was found downregulated in HCC tissues and responsible for the reduction of circZKSCAN1. Conclusion: Collectively, this study revealed the mechanisms underlying the regulatory role of circZKSCAN1 in HCC CSCs and identified the newly discovered Qki5-circZKSCAN1-FMRP-CCAR1-Wnt signaling axis as a potentially important therapeutic target for HCC treatment.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are the key factor in determining cancer recurrence, metastasis, chemoresistance and patient prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The role of miR-5188 in cancer stemness has never been documented. In this study, we investigated the clinical and biological roles of miR-5188 in HCC. Methods: MiRNA expression in HCC was analyzed by bioinformatics analysis and in situ hybridization. The biological effect of miR-5188 was demonstrated in both in vitro and in vivo studies through the ectopic expression of miR-5188. The target gene and molecular pathway of miR-5188 were characterized using bioinformatics tools, dual-luciferase reporter assays, gene knockdown, and rescue experiments. Results: MiR-5188 was shown to be upregulated and confer poor prognosis in HCC patient data from TCGA database. MiR-5188 was subsequently identified as a significant inducer of cancer stemness that promotes HCC pathogenesis. Specifically, the targeting of miR-5188 by its antagomir markedly prolonged the survival time of HCC-bearing mice and improved HCC cell chemosensitivity in vivo. Mechanistic analysis indicated that miR-5188 directly targets FOXO1, which interacts with ?-catenin in the cytoplasm to reduce the nuclear translocation of ?-catenin and promotes the activation of Wnt signaling and downstream tumor stemness, EMT, and c-Jun. Moreover, c-Jun transcriptionally activates miR-5188 expression, forming a positive feedback loop. Interestingly, the miR-5188-FOXO1/?-catenin-c-Jun feedback loop was induced by hepatitis X protein (HBX) through Wnt signaling and participated in the HBX-induced pathogenesis of HCC. Finally, analyses of transcriptomics data and our clinical data supported the significance of the abnormal expression of the miR-5188 pathway in HCC pathogenesis. Conclusions: These findings present the inhibition of miR-5188 as a novel strategy for the efficient elimination of CSCs to prevent tumor metastasis, recurrence and chemoresistance in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Our study highlights the importance of miR-5188 as a tumor stemness inducer that acts as a potential target for HCC treatment.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are frequently resistant to current therapeutic regimens and therefore responsible for tumor recurrence. Previous studies have reported that expression levels of dysadherin in CSCs may be used as a prognostic indicator, which is also responsible for treatment failure and poor survival rates. The present study analyzed the association of enhanced dysadherin levels with drug resistance and evasion of apoptosis in human HCC SP cells. An SP of 3.7% was isolated from human HCC cells using fluorescence?activated cell sorting. These SP cells displayed elevated levels of dysadherin and stemness proteins as well as high resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs and apoptosis. In order to reveal the possible link between dysadherin levels and tumorigenesis of SP cells, small interfering RNA technology was used to knockdown the expression of dysadherin in SP cells. Of note, the siRNA?transfected SP cells showed significantly reduced levels of stemness proteins, and were more sensitive to DNA?targeting drugs and apoptotic cell death as compared to non?transfected cells. Furthermore, in vivo experiments in NON/SCID mice indicated that dysadherin?expressing SP cells were highly tumorigenic, as they were able to induce tumor growth. The SP cell?derived tumor tissues in turn showed elevated dysadherin levels. The results of the present study therefore suggested that knockdown of dysadherin suppressed the tumorigenic properties of cancer stem-like SP cells. Hence, dysadherin is a valuable potential target for the development of novel anti-cancer drugs.
Project description:The Wnt, Hedgehog, and Notch pathways are inherent signaling pathways in normal embryogenesis, development, and hemostasis. However, dysfunctions of these pathways are evident in multiple tumor types and malignancies. Specifically, aberrant activation of these pathways is implicated in modulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs), a small subset of cancer cells capable of self-renewal and differentiation into heterogeneous tumor cells. The CSCs are accountable for tumor initiation, growth, and recurrence. In this review, we focus on roles of Wnt, Hedgehog, and Notch pathways in CSCs' stemness and functions and summarize therapeutic studies targeting these pathways to eliminate CSCs and improve overall cancer treatment outcomes.