CD133+ liver cancer stem cells resist interferon-gamma-induced autophagy

BMC Cancer. 2016 Jan 13;16:15. doi: 10.1186/s12885-016-2050-6.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most fatal malignancies worldwide, and CD133 is a popular cancer stem cell (CSC) marker for HCC. CD133(+) CSCs have been reported to resist conventional chemo- and radiotherapy, but little is known about their response to immune surveillance. Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) is one of key cytokines that the immune system produce to eradicate cancer cells, so we investigated the function of IFN-γ on CD133+ HCC CSCs in this study.

Methods: The response of CD133(+) cells to IFN-γ was performed with functional assays (cell proliferation assay and tumor formation in nude mice), flow cytometry, immunofluorescence staining and RNA interference.

Results: We found that IFN-γ inhibited the proliferation of cell lines with low percentage of CD133(+) cells (wild-type human cells, BEL7402, QGY7701) but it did not affect the proliferation of cell lines with high percentage of CD133(+) cells (wild-type human cells, Huh7, PLC8024) in vivo and in vitro (nude mice). Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that the percentage of CD133+ cells increased after IFN-γ treatment of low CD133(+) cell lines. Furthermore, IFN-γ induced the autophagy of low CD133(+) cell lines to decrease proliferation.

Conclusion: CD133(+) HCC CSCs resisted IFN-γ-induced autophagy, which might also be a mechanism through which CSCs resist immune eradication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, CD / genetics*
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / administration & dosage
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Peptides / genetics*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Glycoproteins
  • PROM1 protein, human
  • Peptides
  • Prom1 protein, mouse
  • Interferon-gamma