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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is heterogeneous, rendering its current curative treatments ineffective. The emergence of single-cell genomics represents a powerful strategy in delineating the complex molecular landscapes of cancers. In this study, we demonstrated the feasibility and merit of using single-cell RNA sequencing to dissect the intra-tumoral heterogeneity and analyze the single-cell transcriptomic landscape to detect rare cell subpopulations of significance. Exploration of the inter-relationship among liver cancer stem cell markers showed two distinct major cell populations according to EPCAM expression, and the EPCAM cells had upregulated expression of multiple oncogenes. We also identified a CD24/CD44-enriched cell subpopulation within the EPCAM cells which had specific signature genes and might indicate a novel stemness-related cell subclone in HCC. Notably, knockdown of signature gene CTSE for CD24/CD44 cells significantly reduced self-renewal ability on HCC cells in vitro and the stemness-related role of CTSE was further confirmed by in vivo tumorigenicity assays in nude mice. In summary, single-cell genomics is a useful tool to delineate HCC intratumoral heterogeneity at better resolution. It can identify rare but important cell subpopulations, and may guide better precision medicine in the long run.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Cancer letters
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The presence of apparently similar characters for which the genetic evidence indicates that different genes or different genetic mechanisms are involved in different pedigrees. In clinical settings genetic heterogeneity refers to the presence of a variety of genetic defects which cause the same disease, often due to mutations at different loci on the same gene, a finding common to many human diseases including ALZHEIMER DISEASE; CYSTIC FIBROSIS; LIPOPROTEIN LIPASE DEFICIENCY, FAMILIAL; and POLYCYSTIC KIDNEY DISEASES. (Rieger, et al., Glossary of Genetics: Classical and Molecular, 5th ed; Segen, Dictionary of Modern Medicine, 1992)
A genotoxicological technique for measuring DNA damage in an individual cell using single-cell gel electrophoresis. Cell DNA fragments assume a "comet with tail" formation on electrophoresis and are detected with an image analysis system. Alkaline assay conditions facilitate sensitive detection of single-strand damage.
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