Identifying and sorting highly tumorigenic and metastatic tumor cells from a heterogeneous cell population is a daunting challenge. Here, we show that microfluidic devices can be used to sort marker-based heterogeneous cancer stem cells (CSC) into mechanically stiff and soft subpopulations. The isolated soft tumor cells (< 400 Pa) but not the stiff ones (> 700 Pa) can form a tumor in immunocompetent mice with 100 cells per inoculation. Notably, only the soft, but not the stiff cells, isolated from CD133+ , ALDH+ , or side population CSCs, are able to form a tumor with only 100 cells in NOD-SCID or immunocompetent mice. The Wnt signaling protein BCL9L is upregulated in soft tumor cells and regulates their stemness and tumorigenicity. Clinically, BCL9L expression is correlated with a worse prognosis. Our findings suggest that the intrinsic softness is a unique marker of highly tumorigenic and metastatic tumor cells.
- microfluidic sorting
- soft tumor cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Molecular Biology