Lithium chloride regulates the proliferation of stem-like cells in retinoblastoma cell lines: A potential role for the canonical went signaling pathway

Amanda K. Silva, Hyun Yi, Sarah H. Hayes, Gail M. Seigel, Abigail S. Hackam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cancer stem cells are found in many tumor types and are believed to lead to regrowth of tumor mass due to their chemoresistance and self-renewal capacity. We previously demonstrated small subpopulations of cells in retinoblastoma tissue and cell lines that display cancer stem cell-like activities, including expression of stem cell markers, Hoechst dye exclusion, slow cycling, and self-renewal ability. Identifying factors regulating stem cell proliferation will be important for selectively targeting stem cells and controlling tumor growth. Wingless and Int1 (Wnt) signaling is an essential cellular communication pathway that regulates proliferation and differentiation of non-neoplastic stem/progenitor cells in the retina and other tissues, but its role in cancer stem cells in the retinal tumor retinoblastoma is unknown. In this study, we investigated whether the Wnt pathway activator lithium chloride (LiCl) regulates proliferation of retinoblastoma cancer stem-like cells. Methods: The number of stem-like cells in Weri and Y79 retinoblastoma cell line cultures was measured by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) pulse-chase, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for stem cell marker genes. The cell lines were sorted into stem-like and non-stem-like populations by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), using an antibody against the stem cell marker ATP-binding cassette, subfamily G, member 2 (ABCG2). Activated Wnt signaling was measured in the sorted cells by western blotting and immunolocalization of the central mediator β-catenin. Results: LiCl increased the number of stem-like cells, measured by BrdU retention and elevated expression of the stem cell marker genes Nanog, octamer transcription factor 3 and 4 (Oct3/4), Musashi 1 (Msi1), and ABCG2. Sorted ABCG2-positive stem-like cells had higher levels of β-catenin than ABCG2-negative non-stem cells, suggesting elevated canonical Wnt signaling. Furthermore, stem cell marker gene expression increased after small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of the Wnt inhibitor secreted frizzled-related protein 2 (SFRP2). Conclusions: These results indicate that the cancer stem-like cell population in retinoblastoma is regulated by canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which identifies the Wnt pathway as a potential mechanism for the control of stem cell renewal and tumor formation in retinoblastoma tumors in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular vision
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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