1. Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA
2. Department of Public and Allied Health, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) appear to resist chemo-radiotherapy and initiate tumor recurrence in patients. Isolation and further characterization of this subpopulation is important for targeting CSCs. Flow cytometry using Aldefluor, a fluorescent substrate of aldehyde dehydrogenase, has been used to isolate CSCs from various cancer cell lines. However, new techniques are needed to locate and identify CSCs in culture for live-cell analyses such as fluorescence microscopy without introducing artifacts during cell sorting and to observe CSC and non-CSC interactions. Previously, we characterized a distinct CSC subpopulation within human esophageal cancer cell lines (ESCC). In this study we introduce the attached-cell Aldefluor method (ACAM) to detect CSCs in ESCC cell lines (KY-5, KY-10, TE-1, TE-8, YES-1, YES-2). To validate this technique, we isolated CSCs from the YES-2 parental line using standard Aldefluor flow cytometry to create a cell line enriched in CSCs (YES-2CSC). This line showed significantly greater ACAM staining and higher CD44 levels than YES-2. ACAM also showed significantly higher ALDH activity in YES-2CSC than in YES-2S, a cell line that has a diminished CSC subpopulation after having survived treatment with curcumin. ACAM stained cells within tumorspheres made from the CSC-enriched line but not differentiating cells from the tumorspheres. This study also demonstrates a new method for generating and growing tumorspheres without the growth factor supplements normally used in medium to form tumorspheres. ACAM should be evaluated using other cancer cell lines to further substantiate its effectiveness and to characterize CSCs in culture through various imaging techniques.
Keywords: Esophageal Cancer, Cancer Stem Cells, Aldefluor, Adherent Cells, CD44, Tumorsphere, Curcumin.