Simultaneous color-coded imaging to distinguish cancer "stem-like" and non-stem cells in the same tumor

J Cell Biochem. 2010 Nov 1;111(4):1035-41. doi: 10.1002/jcb.22792.


In this study, we demonstrate that the differential behavior, including malignancy and chemosensitivity, of cancer stem-like and non-stem cells can be simultaneously distinguished in the same tumor in real time by color-coded imaging. CD133(+) Huh-7 human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells were considered as cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), and CD133(-) Huh-7 cells were considered as non-stem cancer cells (NSCCs). CD133(+) cells were isolated by magnetic bead sorting after Huh-7 cells were genetically labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) or red fluorescent protein (RFP). In this scheme, CD133(+) cells were labeled with GFP and CD133(-) cells were labeled with RFP. CSCs had higher proliferative potential compared to NSCCs in vitro. The same number of GFP CSCs and the RFP NSCCs were mixed and injected subcutaneously or in the spleen of nude mice. CSCs were highly tumorigenic and metastatic as well as highly resistant to chemotherapy in vivo compared to NSCCs. The ability to specifically distinguish stem-like cancer cells in vivo in real time provides a visual target for prevention of metastasis and drug resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Separation
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Color
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Glycoproteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Peptides


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Glycoproteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • PROM1 protein, human
  • Peptides
  • Prom1 protein, mouse
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins