Efficacy of using cancer stem cell markers in isolating and characterizing liver cancer stem cells

George S. Wilson, Zenan Hu, Wei Duan, Aiping Tian, Xin M. Wang, Duncan McLeod, Vincent Lam, Jacob George, Liang Qiao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Recent evidence suggests that a subset of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) are derived from liver cancer stem cells (LCSCs). In order to isolate and characterize LCSCs, reliable markers that are specific to these cells are required. We evaluated the efficacy of a range of cancer stem cell (CSC) markers in isolating and characterizing LCSCs. We show that the most widely used CSC markers are not specific to LCSCs. By western analysis, protein expression of the common markers showed no significant difference between HCC tumor tissues and adjacent non-cancerous liver. Further, isolation of LCSCs from common HCC cell lines using FACScan and microbeads showed no consistent marker expression pattern. We also show that LCSCs have unique subtypes. Immunohistochemistry of HCC tissues showed that different HCCs express unique combinations of LCSC markers. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that LCSCs isolated using different markers in the same HCC phenotype had different expression profiles. Likewise, LCSCs isolated from different HCC phenotypes with the same marker also had unique expression profiles and displayed varying resistance profiles to Sorafenib. Thus, using a range of commonly used CSC markers in HCCs and cell lines, we demonstrate that currently available markers are not specific for LCSCs. LCSCs have unique subtypes that express distinctive combinations of LCSC markers and altered drug resistance profiles, making their identification problematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2655-2664
Number of pages10
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

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