PloS one 2017 10 1312(10) e0186186 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0186186
Some head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) have a distinct aetiology, which depends on the presence of oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV). Also, HNSCC contains cancer stem cells (CSCs) that have greater radioresistance and capacity to change replication dynamics in response to irradiation compared to non-clonogenic cells. Since there is limited data on CSCs in HNSCC as a function of HPV status, better understanding of their radiobiology may enable improved treatment outcome.
Baseline and post-irradiation changes in CSC proportions were investigated by flow cytometry in a HPV-negative (UM-SCC-1) and a HPV-positive (UM-SCC-47) HNSCC cell line, using fluorescent staining with CD44/ALDH markers. CSC proportions in both irradiated and unirradiated cultures were compared for the two cell lines at various times post-irradiation. To assess repopulation of CSCs, untreated cultures were depleted of CD44+/ALDH+ cells and re-cultured for 3 weeks before flow cytometry analysis.
CSC proportions in untreated cell lines were 0.57% (UM-SCC-1) and 2.87% (UM-SCC-47). Untreated cell lines depleted of CD44+/ALDH+ repopulated this phenotype to a mean of 0.15% (UM-SCC-1) and 6.76% (UM-SCC-47). All UM-SCC-47 generations showed elevated CSC proportions after irradiation, with the most significant increase at 2 days post-irradiation. The highest elevation in UM-SCC-1 CSCs was observed at 1 day post-irradiation in the 2nd generation and at 3 days after irradiation in the 3rd generation. When measured after 10 days, only the 3rd generation of UM-SCC-1 showed elevated CSCs.
CSC proportions in both cell lines were elevated after exposure and varied with time post irradiation. UM-SCC-47 displayed significant plasticity in repopulating the CSC phenotype in depleted cultures, which was not seen in UM-SCC-1.