Although CD133 has been reported to be a promising colon cancer stem cell marker, the biological functions of CD133+ colon cancer cells remain controversial. In the present study, we investigated the biological differences between CD133+ and CD133- colon cancer cells, with a particular focus on their interactions with cancer-associated fibroblasts, especially CD10+ fibroblasts. We used 19 primary colon cancer tissues, 30 primary cultures of fibroblasts derived from colon cancer tissues and 6 colon cancer cell lines. We isolated CD133+ and CD133- subpopulations from the colon cancer tissues and cultured cells. In vitro analyses revealed that the two populations showed similar biological behaviors in their proliferation and chemosensitivity. In vivo analyses revealed that CD133+ cells showed significantly greater tumor growth than CD133- cells (P = 0.007). Moreover, in cocultures with primary fibroblasts derived from colon cancer tissues, CD133+ cells exhibited significantly more invasive behaviors than CD133- cells (P<0.001), especially in cocultures with CD10+ fibroblasts (P<0.0001). Further in vivo analyses revealed that CD10+ fibroblasts enhanced the tumor growth of CD133+ cells significantly more than CD10- fibroblasts (P<0.05). These data demonstrate that the in vitro invasive properties and in vivo tumor growth of CD133+ colon cancer cells are enhanced in the presence of specific cancer-associated fibroblasts, CD10+ fibroblasts, suggesting that the interactions between these specific cell populations have important roles in cancer progression. Therefore, these specific interactions may be promising targets for new colon cancer therapies.
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