CD133 expression is associated with small round blue cell tumour morphology in human central nervous system neoplasms

Jens Schittenhelm, Perikles Simon, Patrick N. Harter, Cornelia Zachskorn, Holger Schlaszus, Frauke Röttger, Monika Winkels, Michael Weller, Richard Meyermann, Michel Mittelbronn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: CD133 is considered to be a marker for brain tumour-initiating cells. However, most data on CD133 are derived from animal or in-vitro studies. The aim of this study was to characterize CD133 expression, and the distribution and morphological features of CD133+ cells, in primary and secondary human central nervous system (CNS) neoplasms. Methods and results: Tumours were analysed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, western blot, flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Our results show that only small round blue cell tumours (SRBCTs) exhibit strong and consistent CD133 expression. Interestingly, glioblastomas, large-cell carcinomas and sarcomas were negative for CD133. Only glioblastomas with a focal small-cell component exhibited CD133 immunoreactivity in the SRBCT component. In addition, CD133 expression did not correlate with the expression of other markers associated with stem cell differentiation, including CD15 and nestin. Conclusions: CD133 expression in human CNS neoplasms is independent of the grade of malignancy but strongly correlates with SRBCT morphology. Together with recent findings showing that CD133 is quickly upregulated upon hypoxia and that CD133- cells can also exhibit stem cell properties, our data strongly question the suitability of CD133 as a brain tumour stem cell marker invivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-749
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • CD133
  • CNS neoplasms
  • Stem cells


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