Background: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) paradigm suggests that CSCs might have important clinical implications in cancer therapy. Previously, we reported that accumulation efficiency of CSCs is different post low- and high-LET irradiation in 48 h.
Methods: Cancer stem cells and non-stem cancer cells (NSCCs) were sorted and functionally identified through a variety of assays such as antigen profiles and sphere formation. Inter-conversion between CSCs and NSCCs were in situ visualised. Cancer stem cells proportions were assayed over multiple generations under normal and irradiation surroundings. Supplement and inhibition of TGF-β1, as well as immunofluorescence assay of E-cadherin and Vimentin, were performed.
Results: Surface antigen markers of CSCs and NSCCs exist in an intrinsic homoeostasis state with spontaneous and in situ visualisable inter-conversions, irrespective of prior radiations. Supplement with TGF-β1 accelerates the equilibrium, whereas inhibition of TGF-β signalling disturbs the equilibrium and significantly decreases CSC proportion. Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) might be activated during the process.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that the intrinsic inter-conversion and dynamic equilibrium between CSCs and NSCCs exist under normal and irradiation surroundings, and TGF-β might have important roles in the equilibrium through activating EMT.