Aim: We investigated the mechanisms driving the concomitant overexpression of ABCG2 and CD133 in cancer stem cells (CSCs) and examined the effect of modulating the underlying machinery on anticancer drug response. Background: Multidrug resistance is a major obstacle to chemotherapy. It is usually associated with increased efflux of anticancer drugs by ATP-binding cassette transporters including ABCG2. ABCG2 is also a key survival factor for CSCs, which lead to recurrence. CSCs have been identified in patient tumor specimens and in cancer cell lines. The CSC hypothesis suggests that anticancer therapies have to target and destroy all residual CSCs in order to produce a durable response. CD133 is a well-characterized stem cell biomarker and it plays crucial role in the self-renewal and tumorigenesis of CSCs. Importantly, ABCG2 and CD133 are co-expressed in CSCs, yet the mechanism(s) driving their concomitant high expression remain elusive. mRNA polyadenylation is a key step regulating the maturation of eukaryotic mRNAs by adding a poly A tail to their 3' ends. Alternative polyadenylation, commonly observed in cancer cells, is a phenomenon responsible for the production of multiple mRNA isoforms bearing different length of 3'-untranslated region (3'UTR). Method: Sub-population of cancer cells from three ABCG2-overexpressing multidrug resistant colon cancer cell lines were sorted by Hoechst dye exclusion or CSC markers (DCLK1+LGR5+BMI1+), respectively, as side population (SP) and putative CSC cells. Expression of ABCG2, CD133, and a few master mRNA polyadenylation trans-acting regulators was compared in SP (or CSC) versus non-SP (or non-CSC) cells. Altered 3'UTR isoforms of ABCG2 and CD133 were examined by 3'RACE assay and 3'UTR isoform specific PCR. The anticancer activity of common chemotherapeutic drugs was examined after genetic modulation of the key mRNA polyadenylation regulators identified. Result: The mRNA stability and expression of both ABCG2 and CD133 were found to be remarkably higher in SP cells (or CSC cells) than in non-SP cells (or non-CSC cells). By 3'RACE assay, shortening of ABCG2 and CD133 3'UTR was evidenced in SP (and CSC) cells but not in non-SP (and non-CSC) cells, thereby increasing mRNA stability and/or translation by escaping the repression from regulatory elements found on long mRNA 3'UTR. Expression of two master mRNA polyadenylation regulators (PABPN1 and CSTF2) was found to be remarkably lower and higher, respectively, in SP (and CSC) than in non-SP (and non-CSC) cells, presumably allowing the preferential utilization of proximal 3'UTR to mediate high expression of ABCG2 and CD133. Genetic silencing of CSTF2 was shown to enhance the anticancer effect of SN-38 and reduce the colony formation capacity of CSC cells. Conclusion: A novel mRNA 3'UTR shortening machinery was shown to mediate the simultaneous overexpression of ABCG2 and CD133 in SP and CSC cells. It may represent useful drug target for circumvention of resistance and eradication of CSCs.

Citation Format: Kenneth K.W. To. Shortening of mRNA 3′ untranslated region mediates simultaneous overexpression of ABCG2 and CD133 in putative cancer stem cells [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr LB131.