Epithelioid and fibroblastoid subsets coexist in the human sarcomatoid renal cell carcinoma (sRCC) cell line, RCC52, according to previous clonal studies. Herein, using monoclonal antibodies to CD44 and CD24 markers, we identified and isolated these two populations, and showed that CD44bright/CD24dim and CD44bright/CD24bright phenotypes correspond to epithelioid and fibroblastoid subsets, respectively. Both sorted subsets displayed different levels of tumorigenicity in xenotransplantation, indicating that each harbored its own cancer stem cells (CSCs). The CD44bright/CD24bright subset, associated with higher expression of MMP-7, -8 and TIMP-1 transcripts, showed greater migratory/invasive potential than the CD44bright/CD24dim subset, which was associated with higher expression of MMP-2, -9 and TIMP-2 transcripts. Both subsets differentially expressed stemness gene products c-Myc, Oct4A, Notch1, Notch2 and Notch3, and the RCC stem cell marker, CD105 in 4-5% of RCC52 cells. These results suggest the presence of CSCs in both sRCC subsets for the first time and should therefore be considered potential therapeutic targets for this aggressive malignancy.
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