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IL-6 promotes growth and epithelial-mesenchymal transition of CD133+ cells of non-small cell lung cancer

Soo Ok Lee, Xiaodong Yang, Shanzhou Duan, Ying Tsai, Laura R. Strojny, Peter Keng and Yuhchyau Chen _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:6626-6638. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6570

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Soo Ok Lee1, Xiaodong Yang1, Shanzhou Duan1, Ying Tsai1, Laura R. Strojny1, Peter Keng1, Yuhchyau Chen1

1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA

Correspondence to:

Yuhchyau Chen, e-mail: [email protected]

Soo Ok Lee, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: non-small cell lung cancer, IL-6, CD133+, cancer stem cells, self-renewal

Received: July 01, 2015     Accepted: November 21, 2015     Published: December 12, 2015


We examined IL-6 effects on growth, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process, and metastatic ability of CD133+ and CD133– cell subpopulations isolated from three non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines: A549, H157, and H1299. We developed IL-6 knocked-down and scramble (sc) control cells of A549 and H157 cell lines by lentiviral infection system, isolated CD133+ and CD133– sub-populations, and investigated the IL-6 role in self-renewal/growth of these cells. IL-6 showed either an inhibitory or lack of effect in modulating growth of CD133– cells depending on intracellular IL-6 levels, but there was higher self-renewal ability of IL-6 expressing CD133+ cells than IL-6 knocked down cells, confirming the promoter role of IL-6 in CD133+ cells growth. We then examined tumor growth of xenografts developed from CD133+ cells of A549IL-6si vs. A549sc cell lines. Consistently, there was retarded growth of tumors developed from A549IL-6si, CD133+ cells compared to tumors originating from A549sc, CD133+ cells. The effect of IL-6 in promoting CD133+ self-renewal was due to hedgehog (Hhg) and Erk signaling pathway activation and higher Bcl-2/Bcl-xL expression. We also investigated whether IL-6 regulates the EMT process of CD133− and CD133+ cells differently. Expression of the EMT/metastasis-associated molecules in IL-6 expressing cells was higher than in IL-6 knocked down cells. Together, we demonstrated dual roles of IL-6 in regulating growth of CD133– and CD133+ subpopulations of lung cancer cells and significant regulation of IL-6 on EMT/metastasis increase in CD133+ cells, not in CD133– cells.

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