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Introduction: As cancer cells are affected by many factors in their microenvironment, a major challenge is to isolate the effect of a specific factor on cancer stem cells (CSCs) while keeping other factors unchanged. We have developed a synthetic inert 3D polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) gel culture system as a unique tool to study the effect of microenvironmental factors on CSCs response. We have reported that CSCs formed in the inert PEGDA gel by encapsulation of breast cancer cells maintain their stemness within a certain range of gel stiffness. The objective was to investigate the effect of CD44 binding peptide (CD44BP) conjugated to the gel on the maintenance of breast CSCs.

Methods: 4T1 or MCF7 breast cancer cells were encapsulated in PEGDA gel with CD44BP conjugation. Control groups included dissolved CD44BP and the gel with mutant CD44BP conjugation. Tumorsphere size and density, and expression of CSC markers were determined after 9 days. For in vivo, cell encapsulated gels were inoculated in syngeneic Balb/C mice and tumor formation was determined after 4 weeks. Effect of CD44BP conjugation on breast CSC maintenance was compared with integrin binding RGD peptide (IBP) and fibronectin-derived heparin binding peptide (FHBP).

Results: Conjugation of CD44BP to the gel inhibited breast tumorsphere formation in vitro and in vivo. The ability of the encapsulated cells to form tumorspheres in the peptide-conjugated gels correlated with the expression of CSC markers. Tumorsphere formation in vitro was enhanced by FHBP while it was abolished by IBP.

Conclusion: CD44BP and IBP conjugated to the gel abolished tumorsphere formation by encapsulated 4T1 cells while FHBP enhanced tumorsphere formation compared to cells in the gel without peptide. The PEGDA hydrogel culture system provides a novel tool to investigate the individual effect of factors in the microenvironment on CSC maintenance without interference of other factors.

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APA Citation

Yang, X., Sarvestani, S., Moeinzadeh, S., He, X., & Jabbari, E. (2013). Effect of CD44 Binding Peptide Conjugated to an Engineered Inert Matrix on Maintenance of Breast Cancer Stem Cells and Tumorsphere Formation. Plos ONE, 8(3), e59147. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059147


© 2013 Yang et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.