International journal of clinical and experimental pathology

Enhanced expression of stem cell markers and drug resistance in sphere-forming non-small cell lung cancer cells.

PMID 26261505


There is growing evidence suggesting that cancer stem cells (CSCs) are playing critical roles in tumor progression, metastasis and drug resistance. However, the role of CSCs in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains elusive. In this study, we enriched for stem-like cells from tumor spheres derived from NSCLC cell line A549 cultured in serum-free medium. Our results showed that sphere-derived cells expressed various stem cell markers such as CD44, CD133, Sox2 and Oct4. Compared with the corresponding cells in monolayer cultures, sphere-derived cells showed marked morphologic changes and increased expression of the stem cell markers CD133. Furthermore, we found that sphere-derived cells exhibited increased proliferation, cell-cycle progression as well as drug-resistant properties as compared to A549 adherent cells. Consistently, expression of several drug resistance proteins, including lung resistance-related protein (LRP), glutathion-S-transferase-π (GST-π) and multidrug resistance proteins-1 (MRP1) were all significantly enhanced in sphere-derived cells. These results indicate the enrichment of CSCs in sphere cultures and support their role in regulating drug resistance in NSCLC.