Cell Division Patterns and Chromosomal Segregation Defects in Oral Cancer Stem Cells

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Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a serious public health problem caused primarily by smoking and alcohol consumption or human papillomavirus. The cancer stem cell (CSC) theory posits that CSCs show unique characteristics, including self-renewal and therapeutic resistance. Examining biomarkers and other features of CSCs is critical to better understanding their biology. To this end, the results show that cellular SOX2 immunostaining correlates with other CSC biomarkers in OSCC cell lines and marks the rare CSC population. To assess whether CSC division patterns are symmetrical, resulting in two CSC, or asymmetrical, leading to one CSC and one cancer cell, cell size and fluorescence intensity of mitotic cells stained with SOX2 were analyzed. Asymmetrical SOX2 distribution in ≈25% of the mitoses analyzed was detected. Chromosomal instability, some of which is caused by chromosome segregation defects (CSDs), is a feature of cancer cells that leads to altered gene copy numbers. We compare chromosomal instability (as measured by CSDs) between CSCs (SOX2+) and non-CSCs (SOX2−) from the same OSCC cell lines. CSDs were more common in non-CSCs (SOX2−) than CSCs (SOX2+) and in symmetrical CSC (SOX2+) mitotic pairs than asymmetrical CSC (SOX2+/SOX2−) mitotic pairs. CSCs showed fewer and different types of CSDs after ionizing radiation treatment than non-CSCs. Overall, these data are the first to demonstrate both symmetrical and asymmetrical cell divisions with CSDs in OSCC CSC. Further, the results suggest that CSCs may undergo altered behavior, including therapeutic resistance as a result of chromosomal instability due to chromosome segregation defects.

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