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Use of multiple biomarkers for the localization and characterization of colon cancer stem cells by indirect immunocytochemistry

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In this study, we used LGR5, γ-synuclein, p53, KRAS and epiregulin antibodies to localize stem cells by indirect immunocytochemistry in paraffin sections of normal and cancerous colon tissues. In the normal colon tissue, no staining of cells with LGR5, γ-synuclein, p53 and KRAS antibodies was observed, apart from a few scattered cells in between the colon villi that were faintly stained with antibodies to LGR5. Staining of highly differentiated cancer tissue with LGR5 antibodies revealed single cells or clusters of up to 4 cells in the interior space of the carcinoma cell layers. Staining of poorly differentiated cancer tissues (stage I-IV) revealed 9-81 clustered stem cells. The number of clustered stem cells increased significantly with the tumor stage, when comparing stage II to stage IV (p<00048). Occasionally, the clustered stem cells appeared in the interphase between the colon stroma and the tumor tissue. Surprisingly, antibodies to p53 clearly stained the clusters of stem cells both in the nuclei and the cytoplasm. The staining of the nuclei of other cells in the undifferentiated tumors was in general weaker, and no staining was found in the cytoplasm. Antibodies to γ-synuclein heavily stained the endothelial cells of the blood vessels and some other scattered cells in the highly differentiated tumors. Antibodies to γ-synuclein heavily stained the stem cells in both the cytoplasm and the nuclei of poorly differentiated tumors. Antibodies to KRAS stained the cytoplasm and the nuclei of stem cells in poorly differentiated tumors and also stained the cytoplasm of some scattered cells. Antibodies to epiregulin stained the cytoplasm of normal colon tissue cells in the crypt-villus axis. The antibodies weakly stained the highly differentiated tumor cells and moderately stained the moderately differentiated tumor cells. Of note, the antibodies intensively stained the clustered stem cells of the poorly differentiated tumor cells. These antibodies also clearly stained the clustered stem cells of poorly differentiated tumors but were not specific as they clearly stained cells in the crypt-villus axis of the normal colon wall. Our results show that LGR5 antibodies can serve as a reliable marker for colon cancer stem cells. Once the colon stem cells are identified, the targeting of specific drugs to kill these cells should be attempted in the future in order to cure this disease. Moreover, the fact that we did not find any stained cells with antibodies to LGR5 in normal tissues apart from a few scattered cells, suggests that the normal colon stem cells differ from the tumor stem cells at least as regards the expression of this protein. In addition, antibodies to γ-synuclein, p53 and KRAS only stained the tumor stem cells and not the normal tissue. Thus, they can serve as multiple biomarkers for the localization of colon cancer stem cells by indirect immunofluorescence.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Molecular Cell Biology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel 2: Biological Services, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel 3: Wolfson Hospital, Holon 58100, Israel 4: Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot 76100, Israel

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • The International Journal of Oncology provides an international forum for the publication of the latest, cutting-edge research in the broad area of oncology and cancer treatment. The journal accepts original high quality works and reviews on all aspects of oncology research including carcinogenesis, metastasis, epidemiology, chemotherapy and viral oncology. Through fair and efficient peer review, the journal is dedicated to publishing top tier research in the field, offering authors rapid publication as well as high standards of copy-editing and production. The International Journal of Oncology is published on a monthly basis in both print and early online.
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