POMC maintains tumor-initiating properties of tumor tissue-derived long-term-cultured breast cancer stem cells

Xiaoti Lin, Weiyu Chen, Fengqin Wei, Binhua P. Zhou, Mien Chie Hung, Xiaoming Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The identification and understanding of the molecular network of cancer stem cells (CSCs) have had a profound impact on our view of carcinogenesis and treatment strategy. Unfortunately, a major problem is that serial passages of CSCs from clinical solid tumor specimens currently are not available in any lab, and thus, reported data are difficult to confirm and intensively interrogated. Here, we have generated two tumor tissue-derived breast CSC (BCSC) lines that showed prolonged maintenance over 20 serial passages in vitro, while retaining their tumor-initiating biological properties. We then deciphered the intrinsic mechanism using analyses of mRNA expression array profiles. It has been determined that pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) is closely related with protein phosphorylation mediated by G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) in BCSC. Following, knockdown of POMC inhibits properties of mammosphere formation, CD44+CD24 population, CD44 expression, and clonogenicity ability in BCSC. We found that inhibition of POMC attenuates phosphorylation of AKT2 and GSK3β in BCSC. Further in vivo investigations demonstrated that POMC interference regulates proliferation of BCSC-bearing tumors. Combination of the clinical results that POMC positive expression is frequently upregulated in human breast cancer and POMC positivity correlated with a poor prognosis, POMC is a potential therapeutic target for BCSC. In conclusion, we have successfully established two long-term-cultured BCSC from clinical specimens. We further indicated that POMC acts as a potential therapeutic target and prognostic marker for future treatment of BCSC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2517-2525
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 UICC


  • POMC
  • breast cancer
  • cancer stem cells
  • prognostic marker
  • therapeutic target

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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