Oncol Lett. 2020 Sep;20(3):2937-2945. doi: 10.3892/ol.2020.11829. Epub 2020 Jul 8.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer-associated mortality worldwide; therefore, there is an emerging need for novel experimental models that allow for the identification and validation of biomarkers for CRC-specific progression. In the present study, a repeated sphere-forming assay was used as a strategy to select a malignant subpopulation from a CRC cell line, namely HCT116. The assay was validated by confirming that canonical stemness markers were upregulated in the sphere
state at every generation of the selection assay. The resulting subpopulation, after eight rounds of selection, exhibited increased sphere-forming capacity in vitro and increased tumorigenicity in vivo. Furthermore, dipeptidase 1 (DPEP1) was identified as the major differentially expressed gene in the selected clone, and its depletion suppressed the elevated sphere-forming capacity in vitro and tumorigenicity in vivo. Overall, the present study established an experimental strategy to isolate a malignant subpopulation from a CRC cell line. Additionally, results from the present model revealed that DPEP1 may serve as a promising prognostic biomarker for CRC.