Gene Summary

Gene:THY1; Thy-1 cell surface antigen
Aliases: CD90
Databases:OMIM, HGNC, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:thy-1 membrane glycoprotein
Source:NCBIAccessed: 27 February, 2015


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (28)
Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
Show (3)

Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1990-2015)
Graph generated 27 February 2015 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Western Blotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Thyrotropin
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Messenger RNA
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Carcinoma
  • B-Cell Lymphoma
  • Childhood Cancer
  • Transfection
  • DNA Methylation
  • Translocation
  • Chromosome 4
  • Antigens, CD3
  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer
  • Chromosome 11
  • Young Adult
  • Tumor Markers
  • Base Sequence
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay
  • Leukaemia
  • Hybrid Cells
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Antigens, Thy-1
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Tumor Suppressor Gene
  • alpha-Crystallin B Chain
  • Southern Blotting
  • Genetic Markers
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Chromosome Banding
  • Chromosome 14
  • DNA Probes
Tag cloud generated 27 February, 2015 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (3)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: THY1 (cancer-related)

Lu H, Clauser KR, Tam WL, et al.
A breast cancer stem cell niche supported by juxtacrine signalling from monocytes and macrophages.
Nat Cell Biol. 2014; 16(11):1105-17 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The cell-biological program termed the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) confers on cancer cells mesenchymal traits and an ability to enter the cancer stem cell (CSC) state. However, the interactions between CSCs and their surrounding microenvironment are poorly understood. Here we show that tumour-associated monocytes and macrophages (TAMs) create a CSC niche through juxtacrine signalling with CSCs. We performed quantitative proteomic profiling and found that the EMT program upregulates the expression of CD90, also known as Thy1, and EphA4, which mediate the physical interactions of CSCs with TAMs by directly binding with their respective counter-receptors on these cells. In response, the EphA4 receptor on the carcinoma cells activates Src and NF-κB. In turn, NF-κB in the CSCs induces the secretion of a variety of cytokines that serve to sustain the stem cell state. Indeed, admixed macrophages enhance the CSC activities of carcinoma cells. These findings underscore the significance of TAMs as important components of the CSC niche.

Vail ME, Murone C, Tan A, et al.
Targeting EphA3 inhibits cancer growth by disrupting the tumor stromal microenvironment.
Cancer Res. 2014; 74(16):4470-81 [PubMed] Related Publications
Eph receptor tyrosine kinases are critical for cell-cell communication during normal and oncogenic tissue patterning and tumor growth. Somatic mutation profiles of several cancer genomes suggest EphA3 as a tumor suppressor, but its oncogenic expression pattern and role in tumorigenesis remain largely undefined. Here, we report unexpected EphA3 overexpression within the microenvironment of a range of human cancers and mouse tumor xenografts where its activation inhibits tumor growth. EphA3 is found on mouse bone marrow-derived cells with mesenchymal and myeloid phenotypes, and activation of EphA3(+)/CD90(+)/Sca1(+) mesenchymal/stromal cells with an EphA3 agonist leads to cell contraction, cell-cell segregation, and apoptosis. Treatment of mice with an agonistic α-EphA3 antibody inhibits tumor growth by severely disrupting the integrity and function of newly formed tumor stroma and microvasculature. Our data define EphA3 as a novel target for selective ablation of the tumor microenvironment and demonstrate the potential of EphA3 agonists for anticancer therapy.

Sato T, Goyama S, Kataoka K, et al.
Evi1 defines leukemia-initiating capacity and tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance in chronic myeloid leukemia.
Oncogene. 2014; 33(42):5028-38 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Relapse of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is triggered by stem cells with a reconstituting capacity similar to that of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and CML stem cells are a source of resistance in drug therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Ecotropic viral integration site 1 (EVI1), a key transcription factor in HSC regulation, is known to predict poor outcomes in myeloid malignancies, however, incapability of prospective isolation of EVI1-high leukemic cells precludes the functional evaluation of intraindividual EVI1-high cells. Introduction of CML into Evi1-internal ribosomal entry site (IRES)-green fluorescent protein (GFP) knock-in mice, a versatile HSC-reporter strain, enables us to separate Evi1-high CML cells from the individual. Evi1-IRES-GFP allele models of CML in chronic phase (CML-CP), by retroviral overexpression of BCR-ABL and by crossing BCR-ABL transgenic mice, revealed that Evi1 is predominantly enriched in the stem cell fraction and associated with an enhanced proliferative as well as a leukemia-initiating capacity and that Evi1-high CML-CP cells exhibit resistance to TKIs. Overexpressing BCR-ABL and NUP98-HOXA9 in Evi1-IRES-GFP knock-in mice to model CML in blast crisis (CML-BC), in which Evi1-high cells turned to be a major population as opposed to a minor population in CML-CP models, showed that Evi1-high CML-BC cells have a greater potential to recapitulate the disease and appear resistant to TKIs. Furthermore, given that Evi1 heterozygosity ameliorates CML-CP and CML-BC development and that the combination of Evi1 and BCR-ABL causes acute myeloid leukemia resembling CML-BC, Evi1 could regulate CML development as a potent driver. In addition, in human CML-CP cases, we show that EVI1 is highly expressed in stem cell-enriched CD34+CD38-CD90+ fraction at single-cell level. This is the first report to clarify directly that Evi1-high leukemic cells themselves possess the superior potential to Evi1-low cells in oncogenic self-renewal, which highlights the role of Evi1 as a valuable and a functional marker of CML stem cells.

Amaral AT, Manara MC, Berghuis D, et al.
Characterization of human mesenchymal stem cells from ewing sarcoma patients. Pathogenetic implications.
PLoS One. 2014; 9(2):e85814 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Ewing Sarcoma (EWS) is a mesenchymal-derived tumor that generally arises in bone and soft tissue. Intensive research regarding the pathogenesis of EWS has been insufficient to pinpoint the early events of Ewing sarcomagenesis. However, the Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) is currently accepted as the most probable cell of origin.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: In an initial study regarding a deep characterization of MSC obtained specifically from EWS patients (MSC-P), we compared them with MSC derived from healthy donors (MSC-HD) and EWS cell lines. We evaluated the presence of the EWS-FLI1 gene fusion and EWSR1 gene rearrangements in MSC-P. The presence of the EWS transcript was confirmed by q-RT-PCR. In order to determine early events possibly involved in malignant transformation, we used a multiparameter quantitative strategy that included both MSC immunophenotypic negative/positive markers, and EWS intrinsic phenotypical features. Markers CD105, CD90, CD34 and CD45 were confirmed in EWS samples.
RESULTS: We determined that MSC-P lack the most prevalent gene fusion, EWSR1-FLI1 as well as EWSR1 gene rearrangements. Our study also revealed that MSC-P are more alike to MSC-HD than to EWS cells. Nonetheless, we also observed that EWS cells had a few overlapping features with MSC. As a relevant example, also MSC showed CD99 expression, hallmark of EWS diagnosis. However, we observed that, in contrast to EWS cells, MSC were not sensitive to the inhibition of CD99.
CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, our results suggest that MSC from EWS patients behave like MSC-HD and are phenotypically different from EWS cells, thus raising important questions regarding MSC role in sarcomagenesis.

Nakayama M, Ogasawara S, Akiba J, et al.
Side population cell fractions from hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines increased with tumor dedifferentiation, but lack characteristic features of cancer stem cells.
J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014; 29(5):1092-101 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND AND AIM: Cancer stem cells (CSCs), a minority population with stem cell-like characteristics, play important roles in cancer development and progression. Putative CSC markers, such as CD13, CD90, CD133, and epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), and side population (SP) technique are generally used in an attempt to isolate CSCs. We aimed to clarify the relationship between CSCs and clonal dedifferentiation in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
METHODS: We used a well-differentiated HCC cell line (HAK-1A) and a poorly differentiated HCC cell line (HAK-1B) established from a single nodule with histological heterogeneity. HAK-1B arose because of clonal dedifferentiation of HAK-1A. The SP cells and non-SP (NSP) cells were isolated from the two cell lines with a FACSAria II and used for the analyses.
RESULTS: The SP cell fractions in HAK-1A and HAK-1B were 0.2% and 0.9%, respectively. CD90 or EpCAM was not expressed in either HAK-1A or HAK-1B, while CD13 and CD133 were expressed in HAK-1B alone. Although sphere forming ability, tumorigenicity, growth rate, and CD13 expression were higher in HAK-1B SP cells than HAK-1B NSP cells, there were no differences in drug resistance, colony forming ability, or cell cycle rates between HAK-1B SP and NSP cells, suggesting HAK-1B SP cells do not fulfill CSC criteria.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggested a possible relationship between the expression of CSC markers and clonal dedifferentiation. However, the complete features of CSC could not be identified in SP cells, and the concept of SP cells as a universal marker for CSC may not apply to HAK-1A and HAK-1B.

Okabe H, Ishimoto T, Mima K, et al.
CD44s signals the acquisition of the mesenchymal phenotype required for anchorage-independent cell survival in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Br J Cancer. 2014; 110(4):958-66 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) have an important role in metastatic processes, but details of their basic characteristics remain elusive. We hypothesised that CD44-expressing CTCs show a mesenchymal phenotype and high potential for survival in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
METHODS: Circulating CD44(+)CD90(+) cells, previously shown to be tumour-initiating cells, were sorted from human blood and their genetic characteristics were compared with those of tumour cells from primary tissues. The mechanism underlying the high survival potential of CD44-expressing cells in the circulatory system was investigated in vitro.
RESULTS: CD44(+)CD90(+) cells in the blood acquired epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and CD44 expression remarkably increased from the tissue to the blood. In Li7 and HLE cells, the CD44(high) population showed higher anoikis resistance and sphere-forming ability than did the CD44(low) population. This difference was found to be attributed to the upregulation of Twist1 and Akt signal in the CD44(high) population. Twist1 knockdown showed remarkable reduction in anoikis resistance, sphere formation, and Akt signal in HLE cells. In addition, mesenchymal markers and CD44s expression were downregulated in the Twist1 knockdown.
CONCLUSIONS: CD44s symbolises the acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype regulating anchorage-independent capacity. CD44s-expressing tumour cells in peripheral blood are clinically important therapeutic targets in HCC.

Chen YL, Kuo MH, Lin PY, et al.
ENSA expression correlates with attenuated tumor propagation in liver cancer.
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013; 442(1-2):56-61 [PubMed] Related Publications
Endosulfine alpha (ENSA) is an endogenous ligand of sulfonylurea receptor that was reported to be associated with an ATP-dependent potassium channel that controls insulin release and the onset of type 2 diabetes. ENSA also interacts with microtubule-associated serine/threonine-protein kinase-like (MASTL) to regulate the cell cycle. Previously, we identified ENSA as a possible bivalent gene in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hypothesized its methylation might determine cellular differentiation and transformation. Because there was no link between aberrant ENSA expression and tumorigenesis, we aimed to determine if ENSA is abnormally regulated in liver cancer and plays a role in liver cancer propagation. The epigenetic states of the ENSA promoter were evaluated in different cancer cell lines and patient samples. ENSA was overexpressed in a liver cancer cell line, and its interaction with MASTL and possible tumor suppression capabilities were also determined in cultured cells and mice. Distinct ENSA promoter methylation was observed in liver cancer (n=100 pairs) and breast cancer (n=100 pairs). ENSA was predominantly hypomethylated in liver cancer but was hypermethylated in breast cancer. Overexpressed ENSA interacts with MASTL and suppresses hepatic tumor growth. We also found that ENSA is hypermethylated in CD90-expressing (CD90(+)) cells compared to CD90 non-expressing (CD90(-)) liver cancer cells. These data reveal ENSA methylation changes during hepatic tumor evolution. Overexpressed ENSA suppresses tumor growth in an established hepatic cell line whereas hypermethylated ENSA might help maintain liver cancer initiating cells.

Johansson I, Ringnér M, Hedenfalk I
The landscape of candidate driver genes differs between male and female breast cancer.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(10):e78299 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The rapidly growing collection of diverse genome-scale data from multiple tumor types sheds light on various aspects of the underlying tumor biology. With the objective to identify genes of importance for breast tumorigenesis in men and to enable comparisons with genes important for breast cancer development in women, we applied the computational framework COpy Number and EXpression In Cancer (CONEXIC) to detect candidate driver genes among all altered passenger genes. Unique to this approach is that each driver gene is associated with several gene modules that are believed to be altered by the driver. Thirty candidate drivers were found in the male breast cancers and 67 in the female breast cancers. We identified many known drivers of breast cancer and other types of cancer, in the female dataset (e.g. GATA3, CCNE1, GRB7, CDK4). In contrast, only three known cancer genes were found among male breast cancers; MAP2K4, LHP, and ZNF217. Many of the candidate drivers identified are known to be involved in processes associated with tumorigenesis, including proliferation, invasion and differentiation. One of the modules identified in male breast cancer was regulated by THY1, a gene involved in invasion and related to epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Furthermore, men with THY1 positive breast cancers had significantly inferior survival. THY1 may thus be a promising novel prognostic marker for male breast cancer. Another module identified among male breast cancers, regulated by SPAG5, was closely associated with proliferation. Our data indicate that male and female breast cancers display highly different landscapes of candidate driver genes, as only a few genes were found in common between the two. Consequently, the pathobiology of male breast cancer may differ from that of female breast cancer and can be associated with differences in prognosis; men diagnosed with breast cancer may consequently require different management and treatment strategies than women.

Trivanović D, Nikolić S, Krstić J, et al.
Characteristics of human adipose mesenchymal stem cells isolated from healthy and cancer affected people and their interactions with human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 in vitro.
Cell Biol Int. 2014; 38(2):254-65 [PubMed] Related Publications
Adipose tissue is an attractive source of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) with potential applications in reconstructive plastic surgery and regenerative medicine. The aim of this study was to characterise human adipose tissue MSCs (ASCs) derived from healthy individuals and cancer patients and to compare their interactions with tumour cells. ASCs were isolated from adipose tissue of healthy donors, breast cancer-adjacent adipose tissue of breast cancer patients and tumour-adjacent adipose tissue of non-breast cancer patients. Their proliferation, differentiation, immunophenotype and gene expression were assessed and effects on the proliferation of human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 compared. ASCs from all sources exhibited similar morphology, proliferative and differentiation potential, showing the characteristic pattern of mesenchymal surface markers expression (CD90, CD105, CD44H, CD73) and the lack of HLA-DR and hematopoietic markers (CD11a, CD33, CD45, Glycophorin-CD235a), but uneven expression of CD34. ASCs also shared a common positive gene expression of HLA-DR, HLA-A, IL-6, TGF-β and HIF-1, but were negative for HLA-G, while the expression levels of Cox-2 and IDO-1 varied. All ASCs significantly stimulated the proliferation of MCF-7 tumour cells in direct mixed co-cultures and transwell system, although their conditioned media displayed antiproliferative activity. Data obtained showed that ASCs with similar characteristics are easily isolated from various donors and sites of origin, although ASCs could both suppress and favour tumour cells growth, emphasising the importance of cellular context within the microenvironment and pointing to the significance of safety studies to exclude any potential clinical risk of their application in regenerative medicine.

Sukowati CH, Anfuso B, Torre G, et al.
The expression of CD90/Thy-1 in hepatocellular carcinoma: an in vivo and in vitro study.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(10):e76830 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Although the CD90 (Thy-1) was proposed as biomarker of several tumors and cancer stem cells, the involvement of this molecule in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and other less frequent hepatic neoplasms is still undefined. The distribution of CD90 was investigated both in in vivo (human tissues samples) and in vitro (human HCC cell line JHH-6). A total of 67 liver tumors were analyzed: 51 HCC, 6 cholangiocarcinoma and 10 hepatoblastoma. In all cases, paired tissue sample of both the tumor and cirrhotic liver was available. Hepatic tissue obtained in 12 healthy livers was used as control. CD90 gene expression was studied by RT-qPCR, protein expression was assessed by quantitative Western Blot, immunofluorescence and flow cytometry. The CD90 expression analysis showed a significant increment in tumor compared to both its paired cirrhotic tissue and normal liver (p<0.05 and p<0.001, respectively). This increase was accompanied by the up-regulation of stromal component in the cancer, as demonstrated by alpha smooth muscle actin staining. In vitro analysis of JHH-6 cell line showed a higher proliferation capacity of CD90(+) compared to CD90(-) cells (p<0.001), also noticed in 3D clonogenic assay (p<0.05), associated by a significant higher expression of the promoting factors (hepatocyte growth factor, fibroblast associated protein and alpha smooth muscle actin 2). A higher expression of the breast cancer resistance protein was found in CD90(+) subpopulation while the multidrug resistance protein 1 showed an opposite behavior. Collectively, these results point to the importance of CD90 in the HCC.

Yan X, Luo H, Zhou X, et al.
Identification of CD90 as a marker for lung cancer stem cells in A549 and H446 cell lines.
Oncol Rep. 2013; 30(6):2733-40 [PubMed] Related Publications
Accumulating evidence supports that cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for tumor initiation, progression, distal metastasis and even drug resistance. Although CD90 has been identified as a marker for several types of stem cells, such as liver CSCs, the potential role of CD90 as a marker for lung CSCs has yet to be fully characterized. Our previous study demonstrated that the lung cancer stem-like cells isolated from A549 tumor spheres, which were cultured in serum-free conditioned medium, had stronger proliferation and self-renewal abilities, and expressed higher levels of the stem cell markers Sox2 and Oct4 as compared to A549 adherent cells. In the present study, we identified CD90 as a novel surface marker of CSCs in lung cancer cells. Furthermore, we isolated CD90+ CSCs from lung cancer cell lines A549 and H446. Our results revealed that the CD90+ cells, but not the CD90- cells, from lung cancer cells displayed higher tumorigenic capacity. These findings suggest that CD90 could be a potential marker of lung CSCs and thus provide new insight into further therapeutic strategies of lung cancer.

Cheng Y, Cheung AK, Ko JM, et al.
Physiological β-catenin signaling controls self-renewal networks and generation of stem-like cells from nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
BMC Cell Biol. 2013; 14:44 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: A few reports suggested that low levels of Wnt signaling might drive cell reprogramming, but these studies could not establish a clear relationship between Wnt signaling and self-renewal networks. There are ongoing debates as to whether and how the Wnt/β-catenin signaling is involved in the control of pluripotency gene networks. Additionally, whether physiological β-catenin signaling generates stem-like cells through interactions with other pathways is as yet unclear. The nasopharyngeal carcinoma HONE1 cells have low expression of β-catenin and wild-type expression of p53, which provided a possibility to study regulatory mechanism of stemness networks induced by physiological levels of Wnt signaling in these cells.
RESULTS: Introduction of increased β-catenin signaling, haploid expression of β-catenin under control by its natural regulators in transferred chromosome 3, resulted in activation of Wnt/β-catenin networks and dedifferentiation in HONE1 hybrid cell lines, but not in esophageal carcinoma SLMT1 hybrid cells that had high levels of endogenous β-catenin expression. HONE1 hybrid cells displayed stem cell-like properties, including enhancement of CD24(+) and CD44(+) populations and generation of spheres that were not observed in parental HONE1 cells. Signaling cascades were detected in HONE1 hybrid cells, including activation of p53- and RB1-mediated tumor suppressor pathways, up-regulation of Nanog-, Oct4-, Sox2-, and Klf4-mediated pluripotency networks, and altered E-cadherin expression in both in vitro and in vivo assays. qPCR array analyses further revealed interactions of physiological Wnt/β-catenin signaling with other pathways such as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, TGF-β, Activin, BMPR, FGFR2, and LIFR- and IL6ST-mediated cell self-renewal networks. Using β-catenin shRNA inhibitory assays, a dominant role for β-catenin in these cellular network activities was observed. The expression of cell surface markers such as CD9, CD24, CD44, CD90, and CD133 in generated spheres was progressively up-regulated compared to HONE1 hybrid cells. Thirty-four up-regulated components of the Wnt pathway were identified in these spheres.
CONCLUSIONS: Wnt/β-catenin signaling regulates self-renewal networks and plays a central role in the control of pluripotency genes, tumor suppressive pathways and expression of cancer stem cell markers. This current study provides a novel platform to investigate the interaction of physiological Wnt/β-catenin signaling with stemness transition networks.

Donmez A, Tombuloglu M, Gulbahar O, et al.
CD31 expression on peripheral blood stem cells predicts both early neutrophil and platelet engraftments.
Transfus Apher Sci. 2013; 49(2):307-12 [PubMed] Related Publications
No detailed information currently exists about the immune phenotypic profiles of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs) obtained by different mobilization regimens. The effects of these profiles on the outcome of transplantation are largely unknown. In this prospective study, the surface immune phenotypic features (CD11a, CD18, CD31, CD38, CD44, CD62e, CD62L, CD90, CD117, CD135 and CD184 expression) of sorted PBSCs that had been mobilized by growth factor with (group I and group II) or without (group III) disease-specific chemotherapies were investigated. The immune phenotypic features on mobilized PBSCs in groups I, II and III were not significantly different. The CD31 (platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1) positivity ratio on PBSCs inversely correlated with both the duration of neutrophil (r=-0.32, p=0.03) and platelet (r=-0.36, p=0.02) engraftment. No relationship was found between the engraftment (neutrophil and platelet) durations and CD184 (chemokine receptor CXC motif receptor 4 [CXCR4]) expression on PBSCs. We demonstrated that the surface immune phenotypic profiles on PBSCs obtained by several mobilization regimens were not different. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that CD31 expression on human PBSCs may positively affect both neutrophil and platelet engraftment. Contrary to our expectations, CD184 (CXCR4) expression on PBSCs has no effect on neutrophil or platelet engraftment. Considered together, our results suggest that additional surface antigens (such as CD31) may be more effective in the homing process.

Rahal OM, Machado HL, Montales MT, et al.
Dietary suppression of the mammary CD29(hi)CD24(+) epithelial subpopulation and its cytokine/chemokine transcriptional signatures modifies mammary tumor risk in MMTV-Wnt1 transgenic mice.
Stem Cell Res. 2013; 11(3):1149-62 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Diet is highly linked to breast cancer risk, yet little is known about its influence on mammary epithelial populations with distinct regenerative and hence, tumorigenic potential. To investigate this, we evaluated the relative frequency of lineage-negative CD29(hi)CD24(+), CD29(lo)CD24(+) and CD29(hi)Thy1(+)CD24(+) epithelial subpopulations in pre-neoplastic mammary tissue of adult virgin MMTV-Wnt1-transgenic mice fed either control (Casein) or soy-based diets. We found that mammary epithelial cells exposed to soy diet exhibited a lower percentage of CD29(hi)CD24(+)Lin(-) population, decreased ability to form mammospheres in culture, lower mammary outgrowth potential when transplanted into cleared fat pads, and reduced appearance of tumor-initiating CD29(hi)Thy1(+)CD24(+) cells, than in those of control diet-fed mice. Diet had no comparable influence on the percentage of the CD29(lo)CD24(+)Lin(-) population. Global gene expression profiling of the CD29(hi)CD24(+)subpopulation revealed markedly altered expression of genes important to inflammation, cytokine and chemokine signaling, and proliferation. Soy-fed relative to casein-fed mice showed lower mammary tumor incidence, shorter tumor latency, and reduced systemic levels of estradiol 17-β, progesterone and interleukin-6. Our results provide evidence for the functional impact of diet on specific epithelial subpopulations that may relate to breast cancer risk and suggest that diet-regulated cues can be further explored for breast cancer risk assessment and prevention.

Boerkamp KM, van der Kooij M, van Steenbeek FG, et al.
Gene expression profiling of histiocytic sarcomas in a canine model: the predisposed flatcoated retriever dog.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(8):e71094 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The determination of altered expression of genes in specific tumor types and their effect upon cellular processes may create insight in tumorigenesis and help to design better treatments. The Flatcoated retriever is a dog breed with an exceptionally high incidence of histiocytic sarcomas. The breed develops two distinct entities of histiocytic neoplasia, a soft tissue form and a visceral form. Gene expression studies of these tumors have value for comparable human diseases such as histiocytic/dendritic cell sarcoma for which knowledge is difficult to accrue due to their rare occurrence. In addition, such studies may help in the search for genetic aberrations underlying the genetic predisposition in this dog breed.
METHODS: Microarray analysis and pathway analyses were performed on fresh-frozen tissues obtained from Flatcoated retrievers with localized, soft tissue histiocytic sarcomas (STHS) and disseminated, visceral histiocytic sarcomas (VHS) and on normal canine spleens from various breeds. Expression differences of nine genes were validated with quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) analyses.
RESULTS: QPCR analyses identified the significantly altered expression of nine genes; PPBP, SpiC, VCAM1, ENPEP, ITGAD (down-regulated), and GTSF1, Col3a1, CD90 and LUM (up-regulated) in the comparison of both the soft tissue and the visceral form with healthy spleen. DAVID pathway analyses revealed 24 pathways that were significantly involved in the development of HS in general, most of which were involved in the DNA repair and replication process.
CONCLUSIONS: This study identified altered expression of nine genes not yet implicated in histiocytic sarcoma manifestations in the dog nor in comparable human histiocytic/dendritic sarcomas. Exploration of the downside effect of canine inbreeding strategies for the study of similar sarcomas in humans might also lead to the identification of genes related to these rare malignancies in the human.

Ma Y, Liang D, Liu J, et al.
SHBG is an important factor in stemness induction of cells by DHT in vitro and associated with poor clinical features of prostate carcinomas.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(7):e70558 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Androgen plays a vital role in prostate cancer development. However, it is not clear whether androgens influence stem-like properties of prostate cancer, a feature important for prostate cancer progression. In this study, we show that upon DHT treatment in vitro, prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and PC-3 were revealed with higher clonogenic potential and higher expression levels of stemness related factors CD44, CD90, Oct3/4 and Nanog. Moreover, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) was also simultaneously upregulated in these cells. When the SHBG gene was blocked by SHBG siRNA knock-down, the induction of Oct3/4, Nanog, CD44 and CD90 by DHT was also correspondingly blocked in these cells. Immunohistochemical evaluation of clinical samples disclosed weakly positive, and areas negative for SHBG expression in the benign prostate tissues, while most of the prostate carcinomas were strongly positive for SHBG. In addition, higher levels of SHBG expression were significantly associated with higher Gleason score, more seminal vesicle invasions and lymph node metastases. Collectively, our results show a role of SHBG in upregulating stemness of prostate cancer cells upon DHT exposure in vitro, and SHBG expression in prostate cancer samples is significantly associated with poor clinicopathological features, indicating a role of SHBG in prostate cancer progression.

Wang KH, Kao AP, Chang CC, et al.
Bisphenol A at environmentally relevant doses induces cyclooxygenase-2 expression and promotes invasion of human mesenchymal stem cells derived from uterine myoma tissue.
Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2013; 52(2):246-52 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: Uterine myoma is the most common benign reproductive tract tumor in women. Despite its high prevalence, the exact pathogenesis of these benign tumors remains unknown. Toward understanding the pathogenic mechanism of these tumors, we attempted to isolate human uterine myoma mesenchymal stem cells (hUM-MSCs), which may be the target cells for tumorigenesis. Furthermore, we tested the response of these hUM-MSCs to the environmental endocrine disruptor, bisphenol A (BPA), which may mimic the action of estrogen in hormone-sensitive organs such as the uterus.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The hUM-MSC lines were clonally derived from uterine myoma tissue using the MSU-1 medium supplemented with N-acetyl-l-cysteine and l-ascorbic acid-2-phosphate. These hUM-MSCs were characterized by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis for the expression of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) surface markers (e.g., CD90 and CD105) and the transcription factor Oct-4. The proliferation potential was measured by the cumulative population doubling level and the colony-forming efficiency.
RESULTS: Putative hUM-MSC lines expressed CD90, CD105, and the stem cell marker gene, Oct-4. The cells were capable of differentiating into adipocytes, osteoblasts, and chondrocytes. Bisphenol A treatment of these hUM-MSCs enhanced cell proliferation and colony-forming efficiency in a dose-responsive manner. At an environmentally relevant concentration (10(-8) M), BPA moreover induced cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) gene expression and promoted cell migration and invasiveness.
CONCLUSION: The hUM-MSC cell lines can be isolated from uterine myoma tissues. Bisphenol A could enhance cell proliferation and colony-forming efficiency, induce COX-2 gene expression, and promote migration and invasion of hUM-MSCs. The results imply that BPA has a detrimental effect on female health by promoting uterine tumorigenesis.

Yan H, Dong X, Zhong X, et al.
Inhibitions of epithelial to mesenchymal transition and cancer stem cells-like properties are involved in miR-148a-mediated anti-metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Mol Carcinog. 2014; 53(12):960-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and acquisition of cancer stem cells (CSCs)-like properties are essential steps in the metastasis and postsurgical recurrence of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). The molecular mechanisms involved, however, remain obscure. As determined by an miRNA microarray analysis, there was lower expression of miR-148a in poorly differentiated HCC tissues relative to well-differentiated HCC tissues. MHCC97H and MHCC97L (HCC cells with migratory capacity) and HCC tissues with various differentiation status were selected for further investigation. The results showed that miR-148a levels inversely correlated with the differentiation status of HCC tissues. In MHCC97H and MHCC97L cells, over-expression of miR-148a blocked the EMT process, attenuated the expression of CD90 and CD44 (biomarkers for liver cancer stem cells), and inhibited their migratory capacity. Via TargetScan and algorithms, miR-148a was predicted to bind to the Wnt1 mRNA 3'-UTR. Wnt1 was confirmed as a target gene of miR-148a in HCC cells, and the Wnt signal pathway was determined to be involved in the miR-148a-mediated inhibition of EMT and CSCs-like properties of MHCC97H cells. Moreover, the expression of miR-148a in nonmetastatic HCC tissues was higher than that in metastatic HCC tissues. The results suggest that miR-148a inhibits the metastasis of HCCs by blocking EMT and CSCs-like properties through effects on the Wnt signaling pathway.

Wang P, Gao Q, Suo Z, et al.
Identification and characterization of cells with cancer stem cell properties in human primary lung cancer cell lines.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(3):e57020 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Lung cancer (LC) with its different subtypes is generally known as a therapy resistant cancer with the highest morbidity rate worldwide. Therapy resistance of a tumor is thought to be related to cancer stem cells (CSCs) within the tumors. There have been indications that the lung cancer is propagated and maintained by a small population of CSCs. To study this question we established a panel of 15 primary lung cancer cell lines (PLCCLs) from 20 fresh primary tumors using a robust serum-free culture system. We subsequently focused on identification of lung CSCs by studying these cell lines derived from 4 representative lung cancer subtypes such as small cell lung cancer (SCLC), large cell carcinoma (LCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and adenocarcinoma (AC). We identified a small population of cells strongly positive for CD44 (CD44(high)) and a main population which was either weakly positive or negative for CD44 (CD44(low/-)). Co-expression of CD90 further narrowed down the putative stem cell population in PLCCLs from SCLC and LCC as spheroid-forming cells were mainly found within the CD44(high)CD90(+) sub-population. Moreover, these CD44(high)CD90(+) cells revealed mesenchymal morphology, increased expression of mesenchymal markers N-Cadherin and Vimentin, increased mRNA levels of the embryonic stem cell related genes Nanog and Oct4 and increased resistance to irradiation compared to other sub-populations studied, suggesting the CD44(high)CD90(+) population a good candidate for the lung CSCs. Both CD44(high)CD90(+) and CD44(high)CD90(-) cells in the PLCCL derived from SCC formed spheroids, whereas the CD44(low/-) cells were lacking this potential. These results indicate that CD44(high)CD90(+) sub-population may represent CSCs in SCLC and LCC, whereas in SCC lung cancer subtype, CSC potentials were found within the CD44(high) sub-population.

Jia Q, Zhang X, Deng T, Gao J
Positive correlation of Oct4 and ABCG2 to chemotherapeutic resistance in CD90(+)CD133(+) liver cancer stem cells.
Cell Reprogram. 2013; 15(2):143-50 [PubMed] Related Publications
Liver cancer is one of the most common tumors worldwide and drug resistance is a major obstacle to successful therapy. The growing data show that cancer stem cells (CSCs), a rare subpopulation of cancer cells, might be an important mechanism of drug resistance. To explore the self-renewal ability and chemotherapy resistance in liver CSCs, we enriched CD90(+)CD133(+) hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) CSCs using sphere formation, which was accomplished by cultivating HCC CSCs from established HCC cell lines (HepG2 line and Hep3B line). Cell proliferation capacity was detected using colony formation assays, and cell activity was detected using methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium (MTT) assays after doxorubicin treatment. Expression of CD90, CD133, Oct4, and ABCG2 mRNA and protein levels was detected by PCR and western blot, respectively, which showed that these genes were significantly overexpressed in liver CSCs compared to parental cells (p<0.05). Oct4 and ABCG2 are highly expressed in enriched CD90(+)CD133(+) liver CSCs and are closely associated with chemotherapy drug resistance. We postulated that liver CSCs maybe the cause of high recurrence in liver cancer.

Tang KH, Dai YD, Tong M, et al.
A CD90(+) tumor-initiating cell population with an aggressive signature and metastatic capacity in esophageal cancer.
Cancer Res. 2013; 73(7):2322-32 [PubMed] Related Publications
Tumor-initiating cells (TIC), also known as cancer stem cells, are regarded widely as a specific subpopulation of cells needed for cancer initiation and progression. TICs have yet to be identified in esophageal tumors that have an increasing incidence in developed countries. Here, we report a CD90(+) cell population found in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), which is endowed with stem cell-like properties and high tumorigenic and metastatic potential. mRNA profiling of these cells suggested pathways through which they drive tumor growth and metastasis, with deregulation of an Ets-1/MMP signaling pathway and epithelial-mesenchymal transition figuring prominently. These cells possessed higher self-renewal activity and were sufficient for tumor growth, differentiation, metastasis, and chemotherapeutic resistance. CD90(+) TICs were isolated and characterized from ESCC clinical specimens as well as ESCC cell lines. In freshly resected clinical specimens, they represented a rare cell population, the levels of which correlated with strong family histories and lymph node metastasis. Our results prompt further study of this CD90(+) population of esophageal TICs as potential therapeutic targets.

Donnenberg AD, Zimmerlin L, Landreneau RJ, et al.
KIT (CD117) expression in a subset of non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients.
PLoS One. 2012; 7(12):e52885 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
We have previously described the expression of CD44, CD90, CD117 and CD133 in NSCLC tumors, adjacent normal lung, and malignant pleural effusions (MPE). Here we describe the unique subset of tumors expressing CD117 (KIT), a potential therapeutic target. Tumor and adjacent tissue were collected from 58 patients. Six MPE were obtained before therapy. Tissue was paraffin embedded for immunofluorescent microscopy, disaggregated and stained for flow cytometry or cryopreserved for later culture. The effect of imatinib on CD117(high)/KIT+ tumors was determined on first passage cells; absolute cell counts and flow cytometry were readouts for drug sensitivity of cell subsets. Primary tumors divided into KIT(neg) and KIT+ by immunofluorescence. By more sensitive flow cytometric analysis, CD117+ cytokeratin+ cells were detected in all tissues (1.1% of cytokeratin+ cells in normal lung, 1.29% in KIT "negative" tumors, 40.7% in KIT+ tumors, and 0.4% in MPE). In KIT+/CD117(high), but not KIT+/CD117(low) tumors, CD117 was overexpressed 3.1-fold compared to normal lung. Primary cultures of CD117(high) tumors were sensitive to imatinib (5 µM) in short term culture. We conclude that NSCLC tumors divide into CD117(low) and CD117(high). Overexpression of CD117 in CD117(high) NSCLC supports exploring KIT as a therapeutic target in this subset of patients.

Chen K, Huang W, Huang B, et al.
BORIS, brother of the regulator of imprinted sites, is aberrantly expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Genet Test Mol Biomarkers. 2013; 17(2):160-5 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The brother of the regulator of imprinted sites (BORIS) is a novel member of the cancer testis antigen gene family, which are normally expressed only in spermatocytes, but abnormally activated in different malignancies.
AIM: The aim of this study was to explore the expression of BORIS in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and its correlation with the clinicopathologic features and prognosis of HCC.
METHODS: We investigated BORIS expression in HCC cell lines and 105 primary HCC clinical surgical specimens using real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis. We further examined the correlation of BORIS with a liver stem cell marker (CD90) in HCC tissues by histochemical double staining. The correlation of BORIS with clinicopathologic features and prognosis of HCC was analyzed using patient data.
RESULTS: The expression of BORIS was found in SMMC-7721, BEL-7402, and Huh-7, but not in hep-G2 cells. The expression rate of BORIS was significantly higher in the HCC tissues than in the adjacent noncancerous tissues (p=0.000). BORIS expression was correlated with the tumor size (p=0.000), CD90 expression (p=0.000), and satellite nodule (p=0.000). Kaplan-Meier survival curves showed that patients with positive expression of BORIS had lower overall survival rate (p=0.003).
CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that BORIS may be an auxiliary diagnosis index and a novel favorable prognostic indicator of HCC.

Yamashita T, Honda M, Nakamoto Y, et al.
Discrete nature of EpCAM+ and CD90+ cancer stem cells in human hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatology. 2013; 57(4):1484-97 [PubMed] Related Publications
UNLABELLED: Recent evidence suggests that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is organized by a subset of cells with stem cell features (cancer stem cells; CSCs). CSCs are considered a pivotal target for the eradication of cancer, and liver CSCs have been identified by the use of various stem cell markers. However, little information is known about the expression patterns and characteristics of marker-positive CSCs, hampering the development of personalized CSC-targeted therapy. Here, we show that CSC markers EpCAM and CD90 are independently expressed in liver cancer. In primary HCC, EpCAM+ and CD90+ cells resided distinctively, and gene-expression analysis of sorted cells suggested that EpCAM+ cells had features of epithelial cells, whereas CD90+ cells had those of vascular endothelial cells. Clinicopathological analysis indicated that the presence of EpCAM+ cells was associated with poorly differentiated morphology and high serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), whereas the presence of CD90+ cells was associated with a high incidence of distant organ metastasis. Serial xenotransplantation of EpCAM+ /CD90+ cells from primary HCCs in immune-deficient mice revealed rapid growth of EpCAM+ cells in the subcutaneous lesion and a highly metastatic capacity of CD90+ cells in the lung. In cell lines, CD90+ cells showed abundant expression of c-Kit and in vitro chemosensitivity to imatinib mesylate. Furthermore, CD90+ cells enhanced the motility of EpCAM+ cells when cocultured in vitro through the activation of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling, whereas imatinib mesylate suppressed TGFB1 expression in CD90+ cells as well as CD90+ cell-induced motility of EpCAM+ cells.
CONCLUSION: Our data suggest the discrete nature and potential interaction of EpCAM+ and CD90+ CSCs with specific gene-expression patterns and chemosensitivity to molecular targeted therapy. The presence of distinct CSCs may determine the clinical outcome of HCC.

Lobba AR, Forni MF, Carreira AC, Sogayar MC
Differential expression of CD90 and CD14 stem cell markers in malignant breast cancer cell lines.
Cytometry A. 2012; 81(12):1084-91 [PubMed] Related Publications
The recently emerged concept of cancer stem cell (CSC) has led to a new hypothesis on the basis for tumor progression. Basically, the CSC theory hypothesizes the presence of a hierarchically organized and relatively rare cell population, which is responsible for tumor initiation, self-renewal, and maintenance, in addition to accumulation of mutation and resistance to chemotherapy. CSCs have recently been described in breast cancer. Different genetic markers have been used to isolate breast CSCs, none of which have been correlated with the tumorigenicity or metastatic potential of the cells, limiting their precise characterization and clinical application in the development of therapeutic protocols. Here, we sought for subpopulations of CSCs by analyzing 10 judiciously chosen stem cell markers in a normal breast cell line (MCF10-A) and in four human breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-435, and Hs578-T) displaying different degrees of metastatic and invasiveness potential. We were able to identify two markers, which are differentially expressed in nontumorigenic versus tumor cells. The CD90 marker was highly expressed in the malignant cell lines. Interestingly, the CD14 molecule displayed higher expression levels in the nontumorigenic cell line. Therefore, we demonstrated that these two markers, which are more commonly used to isolate and characterize stem cells, are differentially expressed in breast tumor cells, when compared with nontumorigenic breast cells.

Gisina AM, Lupatov AY, Karalkin PA, et al.
Subpopulation of colorectal adenocarcinoma cells co-expressing CD133 and cancer stem cells markers of other tumors.
Bull Exp Biol Med. 2012; 152(6):739-42 [PubMed] Related Publications
Co-expression of colorectal adenocarcinoma cancer stem cells marker CD133 and a set of surface molecules described in published reports as possible cancer stem cell markers of other solid tumors was analyzed by flow cytometry. Minor cell populations expressing CD29, CD34, CD90, and CD117 against the background of CD133 expression were detected in cancer cells suspensions from the patients with colorectal adenocarcinoma. Our findings suggest that these markers can be used as additional markers of cancer stem cells of human colorectal adenocarcinoma.

Nishikawa S, Dewi DL, Ishii H, et al.
Transcriptomic study of dormant gastrointestinal cancer stem cells.
Int J Oncol. 2012; 41(3):979-84 [PubMed] Related Publications
We previously discovered the coexistence of dormant and proliferating cancer stem cells (CSCs) in gastrointestinal cancer, which leads to chemoradiation resistance. CD13-/CD90+ proliferating liver CSCs are sensitive to chemotherapy, and CD13+/CD90- dormant CSCs have a limited proliferation ability, survive in hypoxic areas with reduced oxidative stress, and relapse and metastasize to other organs. In such CD13+ dormant cells, non-homologous end-joining, an error-prone repair mechanism, is dominant after DNA damage, whereas high-fidelity homologous recombination is apparent in CD13- proliferating cells, suggesting the significance of dormancy as an essential protective mechanism of therapy resistance. However, this mechanism may also play a role in the generation and accumulation of heterogeneity during cancer progression, although the exact mechanism remains to be understood. Through transcriptomic study, we elucidated the underlying epigenetic mechanism for malignant behavior of dormant CSCs, i.e., simultaneous activation of several pathways including EZH2- and TP53-related proteins in response to microRNA101, suggesting that a pharmacogenomic approach would open an era to novel molecular targeting cancer therapy.

Boulard O, Kirchberger S, Royston DJ, et al.
Identification of a genetic locus controlling bacteria-driven colitis and associated cancer through effects on innate inflammation.
J Exp Med. 2012; 209(7):1309-24 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Chronic inflammation of the intestine has been associated with an elevated risk of developing colorectal cancer. Recent association studies have highlighted the role of genetic predisposition in the etiology of colitis and started to unravel its complexity. However, the genetic factors influencing the progression from colon inflammation to tumorigenesis are not known. We report the identification of a genetic interval Hiccs that regulates Helicobacter hepaticus-induced colitis and associated cancer susceptibility in a 129.RAG(-/-) mouse model. The 1.7-Mb congenic interval on chromosome 3, containing eight genes and five microRNAs, renders susceptible mice resistant to colitis and reduces tumor incidence and multiplicity. Bone marrow chimera experiments showed that resistance is conferred by the hematopoietic compartment. Moreover, the Hiccs locus controls the induction of the innate inflammatory response by regulating cytokine expression and granulocyte recruitment by Thy1(+) innate lymphoid cells. Using a tumor-promoting model combining chronic Helicobacter hepaticus infection and the carcinogen azoxymethane, we found that Hiccs also regulates the frequency of colitis-associated neoplasia. Our study highlights the importance of innate immune cells and their genetic configuration in driving progression from inflammation toward cancer and opens the door for analysis of these pathways in human inflammatory disorders and associated cancers.

Zeng B, Hu J, Yuan R, et al.
Increased expression of importin13 in endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma.
Med Sci Monit. 2012; 18(6):CR361-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Importin13 (IPO13) is a novel potential marker of corneal epithelial progenitor cells. We investigated the expression and localization of IPO13 in endometrial, endometriotic and endometrial carcinoma tissue.
MATERIAL/METHODS: IPO13 expression in endometrial, endometriotic and endometrial carcinoma tissue was examined by immunohistochemistry, qPCR and Western blot.
RESULTS: Immunohistochemistry studies showed that IPO13 protein was expressed mainly in cytoplasm of glandular epithelial cell and stromal cells. The rate of importin13-positive cells in proliferative phase endometrium was higher (by about 6-fold) than that in secretory endometrium (P<0.05) and the rate of importin13-positive cells in endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma was higher than that in normal secretory phase endometrial tissues (by about 4- and 9-fold, respectively). Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed co-localization of IPO13 with CD34, CD45, c-kit, telomerase, CD90 and CD146. QPCR revealed significantly increased IPO13 mRNA in endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma versus secretory phase endometrium (by about 2- and 10-fold, respectively). Western blot analysis showed that IPO13 protein is enhanced in endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma versus secretory phase endometrium (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate an increased expression of IPO13 in endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma, which could be involved in the pathogenesis of endometriosis and endometrial carcinoma; IPO13 can serve as an endometrial progenitor/stem cell marker.

Ho DW, Yang ZF, Yi K, et al.
Gene expression profiling of liver cancer stem cells by RNA-sequencing.
PLoS One. 2012; 7(5):e37159 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Accumulating evidence supports that tumor growth and cancer relapse are driven by cancer stem cells. Our previous work has demonstrated the existence of CD90(+) liver cancer stem cells (CSCs) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Nevertheless, the characteristics of these cells are still poorly understood. In this study, we employed a more sensitive RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) to compare the gene expression profiling of CD90(+) cells sorted from tumor (CD90(+)CSCs) with parallel non-tumorous liver tissues (CD90(+)NTSCs) and elucidate the roles of putative target genes in hepatocarcinogenesis.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: CD90(+) cells were sorted respectively from tumor and adjacent non-tumorous human liver tissues using fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The amplified RNAs of CD90(+) cells from 3 HCC patients were subjected to RNA-Seq analysis. A differential gene expression profile was established between CD90(+)CSCs and CD90(+)NTSCs, and validated by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) on the same set of amplified RNAs, and further confirmed in an independent cohort of 12 HCC patients. Five hundred genes were differentially expressed (119 up-regulated and 381 down-regulated genes) between CD90(+)CSCs and CD90(+)NTSCs. Gene ontology analysis indicated that the over-expressed genes in CD90(+)CSCs were associated with inflammation, drug resistance and lipid metabolism. Among the differentially expressed genes, glypican-3 (GPC3), a member of glypican family, was markedly elevated in CD90(+)CSCs compared to CD90(+)NTSCs. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated that GPC3 was highly expressed in forty-two human liver tumor tissues but absent in adjacent non-tumorous liver tissues. Flow cytometry indicated that GPC3 was highly expressed in liver CD90(+)CSCs and mature cancer cells in liver cancer cell lines and human liver tumor tissues. Furthermore, GPC3 expression was positively correlated with the number of CD90(+)CSCs in liver tumor tissues.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The identified genes, such as GPC3 that are distinctly expressed in liver CD90(+)CSCs, may be promising gene candidates for HCC therapy without inducing damages to normal liver stem cells.

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