Acquisition of radioresistance (RR) has been reported during cancer treatment with fractionated irradiation. However, RR is poorly understood in the prognosis of radiotherapy. Although radiotherapy is important in the treatment of prostate cancer (PCa), acquisition of RR has been reported in PCa with an increased number of cancer stem cells (CSCs), neuroendocrine differentiation (NED) and epithelial-mesenchymal transition. However, to the best of our knowledge, the mechanism underlying RR acquisition during fractionated irradiation remains unclear. In the present study, human PCa cell lines were subjected to fractionated irradiation according to a fixed schedule as follows: Irradiation (IR)1, 2 Gy/day with a total of 20 Gy; IR2, 4 Gy/day with a total of 20 Gy; and IR3, 4 Gy/day with a total of 56 Gy. The expression of cluster of differentiation (CD)44, a CSC marker, was identified to be increased by fractionated irradiation, particularly in DU145 cells. The expression levels of CD133 and CD138 were increased compared with those in parental cells following a single irradiation or multiple irradiations; however, the expression levels decreased with subsequent irradiation. RR was evidently acquired by exposure to 56 Gy radiation, which resulted in increased expression of the NED markers CD133 and CD138, and increased mRNA expression levels of the pluripotency-associated genes octamer-binding transcription factor 4 and Nanog homeobox. These data indicate that radiation-induced CSCs emerge due to the exposure of cells to fractionated irradiation. In addition, the consequent increase in the expression of NED markers is possibly induced by the increased expression of pluripotency-associated genes. Therefore, it can be suggested that cancer cells acquire RR due to increased expression of pluripotency-associated genes following exposure to fractionated irradiation.
Keywords: cancer stem cell; fractionated irradiation; induced cancer stem cell; neuroendocrine differentiation; pluripotency-associated gene; radioresistant.