Background: Cancer stem cells are believed to be more radiation resistant than differentiated tumour cells of the same origin. It is not known, however, whether normal nontransformed adult stem cells share the same radioresistance as their cancerous counterpart.
Material and methods: Nontumourigenic (TERT4) and tumourigenic (TRET20) cell lines, from an immortalised mesenchymal stem cell line, were grown in culture prior to irradiation and gene expression analysis. Radiation resistance was measured using a clonogenic assay. Differences in gene expression between the two cell lines, both under nontreated and irradiated conditions, were assessed with microarrays (Affymetrix Human Exon 1.0 ST array). The cellular functions affected by the altered gene expressions were assessed through gene pathway mapping (Ingenuity Pathway Analysis).
Results: Based on the clonogenic assay the nontumourigenic cell line was found to be more sensitive to radiation than the tumourigenic cell line. Using the exon chips, 297 genes were found altered between untreated samples of the cell lines whereas only 16 genes responded to radiation treatment. Among the genes with altered expression between the untreated samples were PLAU, PLAUR, TIMP3, MMP1 and LOX. The pathway analysis based on the alteration between the untreated samples indicated cancer and connective tissue disorders.
Conclusion: This study has shown possible common genetic events linking tumourigenicity and radiation response. The PLAU and PLAUR genes are involved in apoptosis evasion while the genes TIMP3, MMP1 and LOX are involved in regulation of the surrounding matrix. The first group may contribute to the difference in radiation resistance observed and the latter could be a major contributor to the tumourigenic capabilities by degrading the intercellular matrix. These results also indicate that cancer stem cells are more radiation resistant than stem cells of the same origin.