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Protein cross-talk in CD133+ colon cancer cells indicates activation of the Wnt pathway and upregulation of SRp20 that is potentially involved in tumorigenicity


Correspondence: Professor Francesco Salvatore, CEINGE - Biotecnologie Avanzate, S.C.A.R.L., Università di Napoli Federico II, Via S. Pansini, 5, 80131 Napoli, Italy. E-mail:salvator@unina.itFax: 0039-081-7463650


The cancer stem cell (CSC) theory represents a breakthrough in cancer research. We characterized the protein pattern of CSCs to identify specific intracellular pathways in this subpopulation of tumor cells. We studied colon CSCs using two different colon cancer cell lines: CaCo-2 and HCT-116. Putative CSCs were separated from non-CSCs by flow cytometry using CD133 as stemness marker. Total protein extracts of CD133+ cells were then compared to protein extracts of CD133– cells by 2D DIGE. The protein spots differentially expressed in the two subpopulations of cells were analyzed by mass spectrometry. Bioinformatics analysis of the identified proteins indicated alteration of two main processes: energy metabolism and the Wnt pathway. Interestingly, we observed upregulation of the splicing factor SRp20, a newly identified target gene of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, and we demonstrated a direct cause–effect relationship between Wnt pathway activation and the increased SRp20 expression. Our results also show that SRp20 influences cell proliferation, which suggests it plays a role in the tumorigenicity of CD133+ cells. In conclusion, activation of the Wnt pathway in CD133+ cells and upregulation of SRp20, which is implicated in tumorigenesis, raises the possibility of a sequential series of molecular events occurring in connection with this process.