Cheli Y, Bonnazi VF, Jacquel A, Allegra M, De Donatis GM, Bahadoran P, Bertolotto C, Ballotti R
Oncotarget 2014 Jul;5(14):5272-83
Understanding the molecular and cellular processes underlying melanoma plasticity and heterogeneity is of paramount importance to improve the efficiency of current treatment and to overcome resistance to chemotherapy drugs. The notion of plasticity and heterogeneity implies the existence of melanoma cell populations with different phenotypic and tumorigenic properties. Using melanoma cell lines and melanoma cells freshly isolated from patient biopsies, we investigated the relationship between ABCB5+, CD271+ and low-MITF, expressing populations that were reported to display melanoma initiating cell properties. Here, we showed that ABCB5+ and CD271+ populations poorly overlap. However, we found that the CD271+ population is enriched in low-MITF cells and expresses a higher level of stemness genes, such as OCT4, NANOG and NES. These features could explain the increased tumorigenicity of the CD271+ cells. The rapid conversion of CD271+ to CD271- cells in vitro demonstrates the plasticity ability of melanoma cells. Finally, we observed that the transient slow-growing population contains only CD271+ cells that are highly tumorigenic. However, the fast growing/CD271+ population exhibits a poor tumorigenic ability. Taking together, our data show that CD271 is an imperfect marker for melanoma initiating cells, but may be useful to identify melanoma cells with an increased stemness and tumorigenic potential.