Tumour biology : the journal of the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine

Lgr5-positive cells are cancer stem cells in skin squamous cell carcinoma.

PMID 25135431


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) in most human tumors are commonly identified and enriched using similar strategies for identifying normal stem cells, including flow cytometry assays for side population, high aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity, and CD133 positivity. Thus, development of a method for isolating a specific cancer using cancer-specific characteristic appears to be potentially important. Here, we reported extremely high Lgr5 levels in the specimen from skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in patients. Using SCC cell line A431, we detected high Lgr5 and CD133 levels in ALDH-high or side population from these cancer cells. To figure out whether Lgr5 is a marker of CSCs in SCC, we transfected A431 cells with a Lgr5-creERT-2A-DTR/Cag-Loxp-GFP-STOP-Loxp-RFP plasmid and purified transfected cells (tA431) based on GFP by flow cytometry. 4-Hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT) was given to label Lgr5-positive cells with RFP, for comparison to GFP-positive Lgr5-negative cells. Lgr5-positive cells grew significantly faster than Lgr5-negative cells, and the fold increase in growth of Lgr5-positive vs Lgr5-negative cells is significantly higher than SP vs non-SP, or ALDH-high vs ALDH-low, or CD133-positive vs CD133-negative cells. Moreover, in Lgr5-negative population, Lgr5-positive re-appeared in culture with time, suggesting that Lgr5-positive cells can be regenerated from Lgr5-negative cells. Furthermore, the growth of tA431 cells significantly decreased upon a single dose of diphtheria toxin (DT)/4-OHT to eliminate Lgr5-positive cell lineage, while multiple doses of DT/4-OHT nearly completely inhibited tA431 cell growth. Taken together, our data provide compelling data to demonstrate that Lgr5-positive cells are CSCs in skin SCC.