Glioblastoma, the most common and lethal type of intracranial tumor, is characterized by extensive heterogeneity at the cellular and molecular levels. The discovery of glioma stem cells (GSCs) lends support to a new paradigm in tumor biology. In the present study, we aimed to clarify the validity of using U251 glioma cells as a source of GSC culture and critically evaluate the heterogeneous stem-like phenotypes of these cells when grown under various culture conditions. The findings suggested that U251 cells (U251-Adh, U251-SC-Sph and U251-SC-Adh) showed distinctive growth patterns and self-renewal capacity. The U251 glioma cell line is endowed with certain GSC phenotypes that may be moderately enriched in vitro when transferred into stem cell culture conditions, although this is not sustainable and reproducible in vivo. Notably, glioma cells are plastic in response to their environment. The reversible adaptive plasticity contributes to the GSC heterogeneity, which may lead to the heterogeneity of glioblastoma and the differing responses to current therapies. Therefore, an improved understanding of GSC heterogeneity is urgently required for designing more effective therapies against this highly malignant brain tumor.
Keywords: U251; glioma stem cells; heterogeneity; phenotype.