Objective: Brain tumor-initiating cells are characterized by their features of self-renewal, multi-lineage differentiation, and tumorigenicity. We analyzed the gene expression of brain tumor-initiating cells to identify their novel cellular markers. Methods: We performed cDNA microarray, in silico expressed sequence tags (ESTs), RT-PCR, and q-PCR analyses. Results: We identified 10 genes that were more highly expressed in brain tumor-initiating cells than in neural stem cells. In addition, we identified 10 other genes that were more highly expressed in brain tumor-initiating cells than in glioma cell line cells from the cDNA microarray analysis. Using the EST database, we looked to see if the 20 genes were expressed more highly in gliomas, compared with normal adult brains. Among the 20 genes, five (KLRC2, HOXB2, KCNJ2, KLRC1, and COL20A1) were expressed more than twice in glioma samples, compared with normal adult brains, and, therefore, were referred for further evaluation. RT-PCR was conducted using cDNA samples obtained from neural stem cells, normal brain tissue, fetal brain tissue, glioma cell lines, and glioma tumor-initiating cell lines. KLRC2, a transmembrane activating receptor in natural killer cells, was expressed more highly in glioma-initiating cells than in neural stem cell lines or normal adult brain tissue. The q-PCR analysis revealed that expression of KLRC2 was significantly higher in brain tumor-initiating cells compared to normal brain controls. Conclusion: KLRC2 could be a novel cellular marker for brain tumor-initiating cells.
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