Characterization and retinal neuron differentiation of WERIRb1 cancer stem cells

Huiling Hu, Fei Deng, Ying Liu, Mengfei Chen, Xiulan Zhang, Xuerong Sun, Zhizhang Dong, Xiaohong Liu, Jian Ge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The evidence is increasing that cancer stem cells (CSCs) expressing embryonic and neuronal stem cell markers are present in human retinoblastoma (Rb). This study was conducted to determine whether stem-like cancer cells (SLCCs) in Rb express retinal stem cell-related genes and whether SLCCs can directly differentiate into retinal neurons. Methods: The cancer stem cell characteristics in WERI-Rb1 cells were determined with Hoechst 33,342 staining, clone formation assay, and CD133 flow cytometry. The expression of embryonic stem cell and retinal stem cell-related genes was analyzed with real-time PCR and immunofluorescence. The SLCCs were induced to differentiate into retinal neurons by the addition of Dickkopf-related protein 1 and Lefty-A. Results: A small but persistent population of cells excluding Hoechst dye in a verapamil-sensitive manner exhibited a cancer stem cell-like phenotype. The SLCCs displayed highly clonogenic abilities and increased CD133 expression with isolation and expansion in culture in serum-free medium. By comparing the expression of stem cell markers, we found Oct3/4 was more highly expressed in the SLCCs than in human embryonic stem cells. Together with the properties of intrinsic retinal stem cell-related gene expression, we found SLCCs can be induced into neuron-like cells that express glial fibrillary acidic protein and rhodopsin (a photoreceptor cell marker). Conclusions: These findings provide new insight into cancer stem cells and used a strategy of an artificial change of cancer stem cell fate with transcription factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2388-2397
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular vision
StatePublished - Sep 24 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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