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Single cancer stem-like cells (CSC) from colorectal cancers can be functionally identified by their ability to form large lumen-containing colonies in three-dimensional Matrigel cultures. These colonies contain the three types of differentiated colorectal epithelial cells, and single cells obtained from them can reproduce themselves and form tumors efficiently in immunodeficient mice. In this study, we show how hypoxia affects these CSC-derived lumens to control differentiation of stem-like cells and enterocytes via the homeobox gene CDX1. Lumens were identified by F-actin staining and they expressed many characteristics associated with normal differentiated intestinal epithelium, including brush border enzymes, polarization, and tight junctions. RNA interference-mediated silencing of CDX1 reduced lumen formation. Inhibitory effects of hypoxia on lumen formation and stem cell differentiation, including suppression of CDX1 expression, could be mimicked by inhibiting prolyl-hydroxylases that activate HIF1, suggesting that HIF1 is a critical mediator of the effects of hypoxia in this setting. Cell line-derived lumens were phenotypically indistinguishable from colorectal tumor glandular structures used by pathologists to grade tumor differentiation. Parallel results to those obtained with established cell lines were seen with primary cultures from fresh tumors. This in vitro approach to functional characterization of CSCs and their differentiation offers a valid model to study colorectal tumor differentiation and differentiation of colorectal CSCs, with additional uses to enable high-throughput screening for novel anticancer compounds.

Original publication

DOI

10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-13-0454

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cancer Res

Publication Date

15/09/2013

Volume

73

Pages

5798 - 5809

Keywords

Animals, Blotting, Western, Cell Differentiation, Cells, Cultured, Colon, Colorectal Neoplasms, Female, Homeodomain Proteins, Humans, Hypoxia, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit, Mice, Mice, Inbred NOD, Mice, SCID, Neoplastic Stem Cells