Purpose: To investigate the potential role for CD44+ and CD90+ hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cellular subpopulations in biological response to thermal ablation-induced heat stress.
Methods: This study was approved by the institutional animal care committee. The N1S1 rat HCC cell line was subjected to sublethal heat stress (45 °C) or control (37 °C) for 10 min, costained with fluorescent-labeled antibodies against CD44, CD90, and 7-AAD after a 48-h recovery and analyzed by flow cytometry to assess the percentage of live CD44+ and CD90+ HCC cells (n = 4). Experiments were repeated with pretreatment of N1S1 cells with a dose titration of the dual PI3K-mTOR inhibitor BEZ235 or vehicle control (n = 3). Rats bearing orthotopic N1S1 tumors were subjected to ultrasound-guided partial laser ablation (n = 5) or sham ablation (n = 3), euthanized 24 h after ablation, and liver/tumor analyzed for immunohistochemical staining of CD44 and CD90. Differences between groups were compared with an unpaired t test.
Results: Sublethal heat stress induced a significant increase in the relative proportion of live CD44+ and CD90+ HCC cells compared to the control group: CD44+CD90− (5.3-fold; p = 0.0001), CD44−CD90+ (2.4-fold; p = 0.003), and CD44+CD90+ (22.0-fold; p < 0.03). Inhibition of PI3K-mTOR prevented heat stress-induced enrichment of the population of live CD44+ HCC cells (p < 0.01), but not CD90+ cells (p > 0.10). Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated preferential localization of clusters of CD44+ cells at both the tumor margin and ablation margin.
Conclusion: These studies provide experimental evidence supporting a role for HCC cells expressing the putative stem cell marker CD44 in HCC response to heat stress.
- Cancer stem cell
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Thermal ablation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine