Immunohistochemical staining of cancer stem cell markers in hepatocellular carcinoma

S. Lingala, Y. Y. Cui, X. Chen, B. H. Ruebner, X. F. Qian, Mark A Zern, J. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Background: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be a critical subpopulation in tumor development, progression, metastasis and recurrence, and the identification of these cells is an initial step in understanding their role in oncogenesis and in seeking valuable markers for diagnosis or development of targeting therapeutics. Aims: To identify CSCs in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) specimens and define their tissue specificity. Methods: Immunohistochemical staining of CSC markers: CD44, CD90, CD133 and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) was performed in 25 HCC specimens, 4 hepatoblastomas, 8 peri-malignant tissues, and 19 cases of viral hepatitis. Results: The positivity of CD44 staining in HCC specimens was significantly lower than in viral hepatitis specimens. The positive rate of CD133 in HCC was similar to viral hepatitis specimens. CD133+ cells were largely localized to ALDH-positive cells in HCC as revealed by confocal microscopy. In contrast, the co-expression of both markers was visualized within vessels or in the portal areas in viral hepatitis. Moreover, among 7 liver specimens adjacent to HCC tissue, 3-6 samples were positive for CD44, CD90, CD133 and ALDH, especially in dysplastic cells. One of 4 hepatoblastoma cases was positive for all these markers; whereas, the other three specimens were negative for all these CSC markers. Conclusions: In HCC and dysplastic tissues, clusters of CD133+/ALDHhigh cells were identified. The use of cancer stem cell markers to screen tissues with chronic liver diseases provides limited guidance in the identification of malignant cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Aldehyde dehydrogenase
  • Cancer stem cells
  • CD133
  • CD44
  • CD90
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatoblastoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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