Aim: We aimed to investigate the possibility of an association between a stem-like hallmark and radiotherapeutic sensitivity in human cervical carcinoma cells. Material and Methods: Side-population (SP) cells and non-SP (NSP) cells in HeLa cells were isolated using flow cytometry and Hoechst 33342 efflux. We performed Western blot analysis to evaluate the expression of stem cell markers (CXCR4, Oct3/4, CD133, and SOX2) and apoptosis markers after irradiation. In addition, SP and NSP cells were injected into nude mice and we assessed subcutaneous tumor formation. To examine tolerance of irradiation, colony formation and apoptosis change were confirmed in the SP and NSP cells. Results: SP cells showed a higher expression of CXCR4, Oct3/4, CD133, and SOX2 than NSP cells. The colony size of SP cells cultured on non-coated dishes was larger than that of NSP cells, and NSP cells were easily induced to undergo apoptosis. SP cells tended to form spheroids and showed a higher level of tumorigenicity compared with NSP cells. In addition, nude mice inoculated with SP cells showed greater tumor growth compared with NSP cells. SP cells showed a higher tumorigenicity and lower apoptotic potential, leading to enhanced radiotolerance. Conclusion: Tumor SP cells showed higher-level stem-cell-like characters and radioresistance than NSP cells. SP cells may be useful for new therapeutic approaches for radiation-resistant cervical cancer.
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