Developmental pathways such as Notch play a pivotal role in tissue-specific stem cell self-renewal as well as in tumor development. However, the role of Notch signaling in breast cancer stem cells (CSC) remains to be determined. We utilized a lentiviral Notch reporter system to identify a subset of cells with a higher Notch activity (Notch+) or reduced activity (Notch-) in multiple breast cancer cell lines. Using in vitro and mouse xenotransplantation assays, we investigated the role of the Notch pathway in breast CSC regulation. Breast cancer cells with increased Notch activity displayed increased sphere formation as well as expression of breast CSC markers. Interestingly Notch+ cells displayed higher Notch4 expression in both basal and luminal breast cancer cell lines. Moreover, Notch+ cells demonstrated tumor initiation capacity at serial dilutions in mouse xenografts, whereas Notch- cells failed to generate tumors. γ-Secretase inhibitor (GSI), a Notch blocker but not a chemotherapeutic agent, effectively targets these Notch+ cells in vitro and in mouse xenografts. Furthermore, elevatedNotch4 and Hey1 expression in primary patient samples correlated withpoor patient survival. Ourstudy revealed a molecularmechanismfor the role of Notch-mediated regulation of breast CSCs and provided a compelling rationale for CSC-targeted therapeutics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research