Beyond its possible correlation with stemness of tumor cells, CD133/prominin1 is considered an important marker in breast cancer, since it correlates with tumor size, metastasis and clinical stage of triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC), to date the highest risk breast neoplasia.
To study the correlation between the levels of CD133 expression and the biology of breast-derived cells, CD133 low and CD133 high cell subpopulations isolated from triple negative MDA-MB-231 cells were compared in terms of malignant properties and protein expression.
High expression of CD133 characterizes cells with larger adhesion area, lower proliferation rate and reduced migration speed, indicative of a less undifferentiated phenotype. Conversely, when compared with CD133 low cells, CD133 high cells show higher invasive capability and increased expression of proteins involved in metastasis and drug-resistance of breast tumors. Among the signalling proteins examined, PLC-β2 expression inversely correlates with the levels of CD133 and has a role in inducing the CD133 high cells to CD133 low cells conversion, suggesting that, in TNBC cells, the de-regulation of this PLC isoform is responsible of the switch from an early to a mature tumoral phenotype also by reducing the expression of CD133.
Since CD133 plays a role in determining the invasiveness of CD133 high cells, it may constitute an attractive target to reduce the metastatic potential of TNBC. In addition, our data showing that the forced up-regulation of PLC-β2 counteracts the invasiveness of CD133-positive MDA-MB-231 cells might contribute to identify unexplored key steps responsible for the TNBC high malignancy, to be considered for potential therapeutic strategies.