Characterizing cancer cells with cancer stem cell-like features in 293T human embryonic kidney cells

Bisrat G. Debeb, Xiaomei Zhang, Savitri Krishnamurthy, Hui Gao, Evan Cohen, Li Li, Angel Augusto Rodriguez, Melissa D. Landis, Anthony Lucci, Naoto T. Ueno, Fredika Robertson, Wei Xu, Lara Lacerda, Thomas A. Buchholz, Massimo Cristofanilli, James M. Reuben, Michael T. Lewis, Wendy A. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background: Since the first suggestion of prospectively identifiable cancer stem cells in solid tumors, efforts have been made to characterize reported cancer stem cell surrogates in existing cancer cell lines, and cell lines rich with these surrogates have been used to screen for cancer stem cell targeted agents. Although 293T cells were derived from human embryonic kidney, transplantation of these cells into the mammary fat pad yields aggressive tumors that self-renew as evidenced by serial xenograft passages through transplantation. Herein we fully characterize cancer stem cell-like features in 293T human embryonic kidney cells.Results: 293T cells can be readily cultured and passaged as spheres in serum-free stem cell promoting culture conditions. Cells cultured in vitro as three-dimensional spheres (3D) were shown to contain higher ALDH1 and CD44+/CD24- population compared to monolayer cells. These cells were also resistant to radiation and upregulate stem cell survival signaling including β-catenin, Notch1 and Survivin in response to radiation. Moreover, 3D spheres generated from the 293T cells have increased expression of mesenchymal genes including vimentin, n-cadherin, zeb1, snail and slug as well as pro-metastatic genes RhoC, Tenascin C and MTA1. In addition, microRNAs implicated in self-renewal and metastases were markedly reduced in 3D spheres.Conclusions: 293T cells exhibit a cancer stem cell-like phenotype when cultured as 3D spheres and represent an important research tool for studying the molecular and biological mechanisms of cancer stem cells and for testing and developing novel targets for cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number180
JournalMolecular Cancer
StatePublished - Jul 8 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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