Characterization of side population in thyroid cancer cell lines: cancer stem-like cells are enriched partly but not exclusively

Endocrinology. 2007 Apr;148(4):1797-803. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-1553. Epub 2007 Jan 18.


There is increasing evidence that cancers contain their own stem-like cells called cancer stem cells (CSCs). A small subset of cells, termed side population (SP), has been identified using flow cytometric analysis. The SP cells have the ability to exclude the DNA binding dye, Hoechst33342, and are highly enriched for stem cells in many kinds of normal tissues. Because CSCs are thought to be drug resistant, SP cells in cancers might contain CSCs. We initially examined the presence of SP cells in several human thyroid cancer cell lines. A small percentage of SP cells were found in ARO (0.25%), FRO (0.1%), NPA (0.06%), and WRO (0.02%) cells but not TPC1 cells. After sorting, the SP cells generated both SP and non-SP cells in culture. The clonogenic ability of SP cells was significantly higher than that of non-SP cells. Moreover, the SP prevalence was dependent on cell density in culture, suggesting that SP cells preferentially survived at lower cell density. Microarray experiment revealed differential gene expression profile between SP and non-SP cells, and several genes related to stemness were up-regulated. However, non-SP population also contained cells that were tumorigenic in nude mice, and non-SP cells generated a small number of SP cells. These results suggest that cancer stem-like cells are partly, but not exclusively, enriched in SP population. Clarifying the key tumorigenic population might contribute to the establishment of a novel therapy for thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cell Separation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous