Cancer Stem-Like Cells Accumulated in Nickel-Induced Malignant Transformation

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Nickel compounds are known as human carcinogens. Chronic environmental exposure to nickel is a worldwide health concern. Although the mechanisms of nickel-induced carcinogenesis are not well understood, recent studies suggest that stem cells/cancer stem cells are likely important targets. This study examines the role of cancer stem cells in nickel-induced cell transformation. The nontransformed human bronchial epithelial cell line (Beas-2B) was chronically exposed to nickel chloride for 12 months to induce cell transformation. Nickel induced Beas-2B cell transformation, and cancer stem-like cells were enriched in nickel-transformed cell (BNiT) population. The BNiT cancer stem-like cells demonstrated enhanced self-renewal and distinctive differentiation properties. In vivo tumorigenesis studies show that BNiT cancer stem-like cells possess a high tumor-initiating capability. It was also demonstrated that superoxide dismutase 1 was involved in the accumulation of cancer stem-like cells; the regulation of superoxide dismutase 1 expression was different in transformed stem-like cells and nontransformed. Overall, the accumulation of stem-like cells and their enhanced stemness functions contribute to nickel-induced tumorigenesis. Our study provides additional insight into the mechanisms by which metals or other chemicals can induce carcinogenesis.

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