Lipid Droplets: A New Player in Colorectal Cancer Stem Cells Unveiled by Spectroscopic Imaging

Luca Tirinato, Carlo Liberale, Simone Di Franco, Patrizio Candeloro, Antonina Benfante, Rosanna La Rocca, Lisette Potze, Roberto Marotta, Roberta Ruffilli, Vijayakumar Palanisamy Rajamanickam, Mario Malerba, Francesco De Angelis, Andrea Falqui, Ennio Carbone, Matilde Todaro, Jan Paul Medema, Giorgio Stassi, Enzo M. Di Fabrizio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


The cancer stem cell (CSC) model is describing tumors as a hierarchical organized system and CSCs are suggested to be responsible for cancer recurrence after therapy. The identification of specific markers of CSCs is therefore of paramount importance. Here, we show that high levels of lipid droplets (LDs) are a distinctive mark of CSCs in colorectal (CR) cancer. This increased lipid content was clearly revealed by label-free Raman spectroscopy and it directly correlates with well-accepted CR-CSC markers as CD133 and Wnt pathway activity. By xenotransplantation experiments, we have finally demonstrated that CR-CSCs overexpressing LDs retain most tumorigenic potential. A relevant conceptual advance in this work is the demonstration that a cellular organelle, the LD, is a signature of CSCs, in addition to molecular markers. A further functional characterization of LDs could lead soon to design new target therapies against CR-CSCs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 18 2014

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Medicine


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