Cancer stem cells have been strongly linked to resistance and relapse in many malignancies. However, purifying them from within the bulk tumor has been challenging, so their precise genetic and functional characteristics are not well defined. The side population assay exploits the ability of some cells to efflux Hoechst dye via ATP-binding cassette transporters. Stem cells have increased expression of these transporters and this assay has been shown to enrich for stem cells in various tissues and cancers. This study identifies the side population within a zebrafish model of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and correlates the frequency of side population cells with the frequency of leukemia stem cells (more precisely referred to as leukemia-propagating cells within our transplantation model). In addition, the side population within the leukemia evolves with serial transplantation, increasing in tandem with leukemia-propagating cell frequency over subsequent generations. Sorted side population cells from these tumors are enriched for leukemia-propagating cells and have enhanced engraftment compared to sorted non-side population cells when transplanted into syngeneic recipients. RNA-sequencing analysis of sorted side population cells compared to non-side population cells identified a shared expression profile within the side population and pathway analysis yielded Wnt-signaling as the most overrepresented. Gene set enrichment analysis showed that stem cell differentiation and canonical Wnt-signaling were significantly upregulated in the side population. Overall, these results demonstrate that the side population in zebrafish acute lymphoblastic leukemia significantly enriches for leukemia-propagating cells and identifies the Wnt pathway as a likely genetic driver of leukemia stem cell fate.
|Number of pages||8|
|State||Published - Jun 30 2019|