Mutant p53 gain of function underlies high expression levels of colorectal cancer stem cells markers
Emerging notion in carcinogenesis ascribes tumor initiation and aggressiveness to cancer stem cells (CSCs). Specifically, colorectal cancer (CRC) development was shown to be compatible with CSCs hypothesis. Mutations in p53 are highly frequent in CRC, and are known to facilitate tumor development and aggressiveness. Yet, the link between mutant p53 and colorectal CSCs is not well-established. In the present study, we set to examine whether oncogenic mutant p53 proteins may augment colorectal CSCs phenotype. By genetic manipulation of mutant p53 in several cellular systems, we demonstrated that mutant p53 enhances colorectal tumorigenesis. Moreover, mutant p53-expressing cell lines harbor larger sub-populations of cells highly expressing the known colorectal CSCs markers: CD44, Lgr5, and ALDH. This elevated expression is mediated by mutant p53 binding to CD44, Lgr5, and ALDH1A1 promoter sequences. Furthermore, ALDH1 was found to be involved in mutant p53-dependent chemotherapy resistance. Finally, analysis of ALDH1 and CD44 in human CRC biopsies indicated a positive correlation between their expression and the presence of oncogenic p53 missense mutations. These findings suggest novel insights pertaining the mechanism by which mutant p53 enhances CRC development, which involves the expansion of CSCs sub-populations within CRC tumors, and underscore the importance of targeting these sub-populations for CRC therapy.
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