Cancer stem cells (CSCs) possess the capacity for self-renewal and the potential to differentiate into non-CSCs. The recent discoveries of dynamic equilibrium between CSCs and non-CSCs revealed the significance of acquiring CSC-like properties in non-CSCs as an important process in progression of cancer. The mechanism underlying acquisition of CSC-like properties has mainly been investigated in the context of epithelial–mesenchymal transition. Here, we demonstrate the dedifferentiation process may be an alternative mechanism in acquisition of CSC-like properties in human colorectal cancer cells. By exploring the single-cell gene expression analysis of organoids developed from CD44 + CSCs, we identified TWIST1 as a key molecule for maintaining the undifferentiated state of cancer cells. Consistent with the finding, we found that TGF-beta signaling pathway, a regulator of TWIST1, was specifically activated in the undifferentiated CD44 + CSCs in human colorectal cancer using microarray-based gene expression analysis and quantitative pathology imaging system. Furthermore, we showed that external stimulation with TGF-beta and the induction of TWIST1 converted CD44 − non-CSCs into the undifferentiated CD44 + CSCs, leading to the significant increment of CSCs in xenograft models. This study strongly suggests dedifferentiation driven by TGF-beta signaling enhances stem cell properties in human colorectal cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research