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Patient Derived Cell Culture and Isolation of CD133+ Putative Cancer Stem Cells from Melanoma

Published: March 13th, 2013



1Institute of Pathology, Laboratory of Molecular Tumor Pathology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 2Institute for Chemistry and Biochemistry, Free University Berlin, 3Laboratory for Functional Genomics Charité (LFGC), Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 4Comprehensive Cancer Center Charité, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

This article describes the preparation of freshly obtained melanoma tissue into primary cell cultures, and how to remove contaminations of erythrocytes and fibroblasts from the tumor cells. Finally, we describe how CD133+ putative melanoma stem cells are sorted from the CD133- bulk using Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting (MACS).

Despite improved treatments options for melanoma available today, patients with advanced malignant melanoma still have a poor prognosis for progression-free and overall survival. Therefore, translational research needs to provide further molecular evidence to improve targeted therapies for malignant melanomas. In the past, oncogenic mechanisms related to melanoma were extensively studied in established cell lines. On the way to more personalized treatment regimens based on individual genetic profiles, we propose to use patient-derived cell lines instead of generic cell lines. Together with high quality clinical data, especially on patient follow-up, these cells will be instrumental to better understand the molecular mechanisms behind melanoma progression.

Here, we report the establishment of primary melanoma cultures from dissected fresh tumor tissue. This procedure includes mincing and dissociation of the tissue into single cells, removal of contaminations with erythrocytes and fibroblasts as well as primary culture and reliable verification of the cells' melanoma origin.

Recent reports revealed that melanomas, like the majority of tumors, harbor a small subpopulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which seem to exclusively fuel tumor initiation and progression towards the metastatic state. One of the key markers for CSC identification and isolation in melanoma is CD133. To isolate CD133+ CSCs from primary melanoma cultures, we have modified and optimized the Magnetic-Activated Cell Sorting (MACS) procedure from Miltenyi resulting in high sorting purity and viability of CD133+ CSCs and CD133- bulk, which can be cultivated and functionally analyzed thereafter.

Cutaneous malignant melanomas are the least common, yet most deadly type of skin cancer. Due to an increasing incidence, a high grade of malignancy and a rapid dissemination, melanomas now account for 75% of malignant skin tumors related deaths1,2. Besides surgical excision of the primary tumor, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and combined chemo- and immunotherapy of metastasized melanoma are the state-of-the-art strategies for melanoma treatment3,4. However, malignant melanoma is characterized by a poor response to chemotherapeutics (5-12%)5,6, and only those 50-70% of melanoma patients carrying the BRAF V600E gene mu....

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The overall scheme of the experiment including the preparation of primary single-cells from tumor tissue, characterization of the primary cell culture, fibroblast depletion and magnetic cell sorting of CD133+ and CD133- melanoma cells is shown in Figure 1.

1. Sample Acquisition

  1. Check for ethical approval before considering the next steps.
  2. Prepare a 50 ml tube with sterile PBS supplemented with 1% Penicillin-Streptomycin final concent.......

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Preparation of single-cells from tumor tissue

Figure 2 exemplifies a resected lymph node metastasis of a late stage melanoma patient before (A) and after (B) mechanical dissociation into 2-4 mm pieces. Following enzymatic dissociation of the tissue and filtration through a 70 μm nylon mesh, cells were pelleted and the supernatant discarded. At this step we observed a high contamination with erythrocytes as indicated by the reddish color of the cell pellet in Figur.......

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In order to remove erythrocyte contaminations from the tumor cell pellet we highly recommend using the red blood cell lysis solution from Miltenyi. The advantages of lysing the erythrocytes over the traditional Ficoll density gradient centrifugation are that it is faster and simpler. Furthermore, contaminations with Ficoll or red blood cells and the loss of tumor cells are avoided. When you observe the growth of fibroblasts in the primary cell culture they should be removed immediately since they normally overgrow the tu.......

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The authors thank Prof. M. Dietel and Dirk Schumacher for supporting this work and critically reading the manuscript.

The research leading to these results has received support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under grant agreement n° 115234, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) and EFPIA companies' in kind contribution. This work was also supported by the Berliner Krebsgesellschaft (BKG).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Accutase PAA Laboratories GmbH L11-007
Amphotericin B solution 250 μg/mL in deionized water Sigma-Aldrich, Inc. A2942-50ml
anti-fibroblasts microbeads Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-050-601
CD133/1 (W6B3C1) Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-092-395
Collagenase IV Sigma-Aldrich, Inc. C5138
DNase I Applichem GmbH A3778.0050
D-PBS without Ca, Mg PAA Laboratories GmbH H15-002
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid disodium salt dehydrate (EDTA) Sigma-Aldrich, Inc. E-7889
FBS Superior Biochrom S0615
Indirect CD133 Micro-Bead Kit human Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-091-895 Includes: CD133/1(AC133)-Biotin, anti-Biotin MicroBeads and FcR Blocking Reagent
Penicillin-Streptomycin, liquid (100x) Invitrogen GmbH 15140-122
Quantum 263 PAA Laboratories GmbH U15-815
Red Blood Cell Lysis Solution (10x) Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-094-183
Cell strainer (70 μm) BD Biosciences 352350
gentleMACS C Tubes Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-093-237
gentleMACS dissociator Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-093-235
MACS Separator Multi Stand Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-042-303
MACS Seperation Columns 25 LS Columns Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-042-401
MACSmix Tube Rotator Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-090-753
Natriumchloride Merck KGaA 567440-1KG
Pre-Separation Filters Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-041-407
QuadroMACS Separator Miltenyi Biotec GmbH 130-090-976
Rotilabo-syringe filters (0.22 μm, PES) Carl Roth GmbH & Co. KG P668.1
Steritop-GP Filter Unit 500 ml Miltenyi Biotec GmbH SCGPS05RE

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