Neuroblastoma (NB) originates from immature neuronal cells and currently has a poor clinical outcome. NB cells possess cancer stem cells (CSCs) characteristics that facilitate the initiation of a tumor, as well as its metastasis. Human bitter taste receptors, referred to as TAS2Rs, are one of five types of basic taste receptors and they belong to a family of G-protein coupled receptors. The recent finding that taste receptors are expressed in non-gustatory tissues suggest that they mediate additional functions distinct from taste perception. While it is generally admitted that the recognition of bitter tastes may be associated with a self-defense system to prevent the ingestion of poisonous food compounds, this recognition may also serve as a disease-related function in the human body. In particular, the anti-cancer stemness and invasion effects of TAS2Rs on NB cells remain poorly understood. In the present study, endogenous expression of TAS2R8 and TAS2R10 in SK-N-BE(2)C and SHSY5Y cells was examined. In addition, higher levels of TAS2R8 and TAS2R10 expression were investigated in more differentiated SY5Y cells. Both TAS2Rs were up-regulated following the induction of neuronal cell differentiation by retinoic acid. In addition, ectopic transfection of the two TAS2Rs induced neurite elongation in the BE(2)C cells, and down-regulated CSCs markers (including DLK1, CD133, Notch1, and Sox2), and suppressed self-renewal characteristics. In particular, TAS2RS inhibited tumorigenicity. Furthermore, when TAS2Rs was over-expressed, cell migration, cell invasion, and matrix metalloproteinases activity were inhibited. Expression levels of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, a well-known regulator of tumor metastasis, as well as its downstream targets, vascular endothelial growth factor and glucose transporter-1, were also suppressed by TAS2Rs. Taken together, these novel findings suggest that TAS2Rs targets CSCs by suppressing cancer stemness characteristics and NB cell invasion, thereby highlighting the chemotherapeutic potential of bitter taste receptors.
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© 2017 Seo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.