Background: Previous studies have demonstrated that the consumption of green tea inhibits the growth of various cancers. Most cancers are believed to be initiated from and maintained by a small population of cancer stem-like cells (CSC) or tumor-initiating cells (TIC) that are responsible for tumor relapse and chemotherapeutic resistance. Although epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in green tea, has been reported to induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in some cancer cells, its effect on CSC is undefined. In this study, we enriched CSC by the sphere formation, and provided an efficient model for further experiments. Using this method, we examined the effects of EGCG regulating the nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) CSC and attempted to elucidate the possible mechanisms.Methods: NPC TW01 and TW06 cell lines were enriched by sphere formation and characterized their phenotypical properties, such as invasion capacity, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and gene expression were analyzed by quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (q-RT-PCR). EGCG-induced growth inhibition in the parental and sphere-derived cells was determined by MTT and bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) assay. EGCG-induced apoptosis was analyzed by flow cytometry with Annexin V and PI staining. The effects of EGCG on sphere-derived cell tumorigenicity, migration and invasion were determined by soft agar assay, wound healing, and cell invasion assay. The alternation of protein expression regulated by EGCG on these sphere-derived cells was assessed by immunofluorescence staining and western blot.Results: NPC sphere-derived cells grown in serum-free non-adherent culture showed increased expression of stem cell markers and EMT markers compared to parental cells grown in conventional culture. Although EGCG induced growth inhibition and apoptosis in the parental cells in a dose-dependent manner, it was not as effective against spheres. However, EGCG potently inhibited sphere formation and can eliminate the stem cell characteristics of NPC and inhibit the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) signatures.Conclusions: Overall, these findings show that NPC cells with sphere formations possess the properties of CSC. Using this model, we found that EGCG regulated NPC CSC, their self-renewal capacity, and inhibited their invasive characteristics. It supports the pivotal role of EGCG as a dietary compound targeting NPC and may decrease recurrence and metastasis in nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells.
- Cancer stem cells
- Epigallocathechin gallate
- Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
- Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
- Stem cells