1. Department of Pathology, Shenzhen People's Hospital, Second Clinical Medical College of Jinan University, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China;
2. Key Laboratory of Pathobiology, Ministry of Education, Norman Bethune College of Medicine, Jilin University, Changchun, China;
3. The Second Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China;
4. Jilin Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Changchun, China.
* These authors contributed equally to this work
The limited availability of melanoma stem cells is a major challenge for therapeutic reagent screening and study of molecular mechanisms. It has been shown that induced expression of four stem cell factors (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc) changes the phenotype of osteosarcoma and breast cancer cells to osteosarcoma stem cells and breast cancer stem cells, respectively. The present study aimed to explore whether these four factors might change the phenotype of melanoma cells to melanoma stem cells and, if so, to examine the possible molecular signal involved. Melanoma B16-F10 cells were transfected with the plasmid TetO-FUW-OSKM which contains cDNA expressing four factors, driven by the Tet-On element. We found that expression of the four transcription factors was highly induced by DOX in the stable melanoma cell clones. Further studies confirmed that induced expression of these factors remodeled the phenotype of the melanoma cells to melanoma stem cells (MSCs). This conclusion was supported by the evidence that induced expression of these factors increased the numbers of tumor-initiating cells, (namely MSCs), both in an in vitro cell culture system and in a mouse in vivo model. The conclusion was further supported by the observation that the induction of these factors exclusively increased the mRNA of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 which has been reported to play a crucial role in stem cell maintenance. Thus, phenotypic remodeling of melanoma cells following the induction of these four factors provided a simple and optimal means to constantly obtain MSCs for screening new therapeutic reagents. The result also reveals that Stat3 may be a crucial link between the induction of the four factors and the cell remodeling, suggesting its potential role as a target to fight melanoma.
Keywords: Phenotypic Remodeling, Melanoma, Transcription Factors, Stat3, Melanoma Stem Cells.