Identification of cancer stem cells in a Tax-transgenic (Tax-Tg) mouse model of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma

Blood. 2009 Sep 24;114(13):2709-20. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-08-174425. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is a malignant lymphoproliferative disorder caused by HTLV-I infection. In ATL, chemotherapeutic responses are generally poor, which has suggested the existence of chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells (CSCs). To identify CSC candidates in ATL, we have focused on a Tax transgenic mouse (Tax-Tg) model, which reproduces ATL-like disease both in Tax-Tg animals and also after transfer of Tax-Tg splenic lymphomatous cells (SLCs) to nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency (NOD/SCID) mice. Using a limiting dilution transplantation, it was estimated that one CSC existed per 10(4) SLCs (0.01%). In agreement with this, we have successfully identified candidate CSCs in a side population (0.06%), which overlapped with a minor population of CD38(-)/CD71(-)/CD117(+) cells (0.03%). Whereas lymphoma did not develop after transplantation of 10(2) SLCs, 10(2) CSCs could consistently regenerate the original lymphoma. In addition, lymphoma and CSCs could also be demonstrated in the bone marrow and CD117(+) CSCs were observed in both osteoblastic and vascular niches. In the CSCs, Tax, Notch1, and Bmi1 expression was down-regulated, suggesting that the CSCs were derived from Pro-T cells or early hematopoietic progenitor cells. Taken together, our data demonstrate that CSCs certainly exist and have the potential to regenerate lymphoma in our mouse model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genes, pX* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / pathology*
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Splenic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Membrane Proteins