Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Retracted: Marker-independent identification of glioma-initiating cells

A Retraction to this article was published on 27 September 2013

This article has been updated


Tumor-initiating cells with stem cell properties are believed to sustain the growth of gliomas, but proposed markers such as CD133 cannot be used to identify these cells with sufficient specificity. We report an alternative isolation method purely based on phenotypic qualities of glioma-initiating cells (GICs), avoiding the use of molecular markers. We exploited intrinsic autofluorescence properties and a distinctive morphology to isolate a subpopulation of cells (FL1+) from human glioma or glioma cultures. FL1+ cells are capable of self-renewal in vitro, tumorigenesis in vivo and preferentially express stem cell genes. The FL1+ phenotype did not correlate with the expression of proposed GIC markers. Our data propose an alternative approach to investigate tumor-initiating potential in gliomas and to advance the development of new therapies and diagnostics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Glioma tumors and cell cultures contain an autofluorescent population.
Figure 2: FL1+ cells display exclusive self-renewal abilities.
Figure 3: Expression of stemness related genes in FL1+ cells.
Figure 4: FL1+ cells initiate and sustain tumor growth in vivo.
Figure 5: Tumorigenic capacity of FL1+ cells.

Change history

  • 08 September 2013

    In the version of this article initially published, we described a method to identify tumor-initiating cells from human primary gliomasphere cell cultures or directly from fresh human glioma specimens. We used FACS analysis to describe a tumor-initiating cell subpopulation that displayed a specific morphology (high forward scatter, low side scatter) and had high fluorescence in the FL1 channel of the FACS (excitation at 488 nm, emission at 520 nm). We have since become aware that the majority of the primary gliomasphere lines (7 of 10) used in this paper were contaminated with HEK cells expressing GFP. We had used these sphere cultures to illustrate the selection method, to measure self-renewal, to assess the expression of stemness genes and to test for tumorigenicity. As assessed by microsatellite analysis of 15 short tandem repeats, seven of the primary sphere cultures used in this paper and all of the three lines used for tumorigenicity experiments did not match their parental tissue, and their genetic profile was consistent with that of HEK cells. We further observed expression of GFP mRNA with reverse-transcription PCR in 7 of the 10 gliomasphere lines. Two of these lines (GSM-1 and OA-III-1) were traceable by microsatellite analysis to their parental tissue at low passages (2–9) but not at higher passages (>20), a result showing that contamination occurred during passage of the cells in the laboratory. We also described experiments done with cells prospectively isolated from freshly resected glioma tissues; we believe that these experiments remain valid. We discussed in the paper that these cells were rare and did not have the same high fluorescence as gliomasphere cultures. We speculated that glioma cells acquire high fluorescence under in vitro conditions. This led to our misinterpretation of the progressive increase in fluorescence of two of the gliomasphere cultures that were in fact being progressively overgrown by contaminating GFP-expressing HEK cells. All together, when we exclude HEK-contaminated cultures, we must conclude that glioma-initiating cells do not have high autofluorescence levels or acquire them during culture. Selection of a tumorigenic fraction may be possible on the basis of morphological characteristics. However, because an important part of the study was done on contaminated cells, we wish to retract the paper. We deeply apologize to the scientific community for erroneously reporting an artifactual phenomenon as well as for the delay in detecting, characterizing and reporting the error. Cross-contamination of cell cultures is likely to be a frequent problem. Routine tracing of cell lines by microsatellite analysis has been advocated before publishing work with cell lines. Our experience shows that this advice holds true also for primary cells passaged in culture.


  1. Wechsler-Reya, R. & Scott, M.P. The developmental biology of brain tumors. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 24, 385–428 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Read, T.A., Hegedus, B., Wechsler-Reya, R. & Gutmann, D.H. The neurobiology of neurooncology. Ann. Neurol. 60, 3–11 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Sanai, N., Alvarez-Buylla, A. & Berger, M.S. Neural stem cells and the origin of gliomas. N. Engl. J. Med. 353, 811–822 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Galli, R. et al. Isolation and characterization of tumorigenic, stem-like neural precursors from human glioblastoma. Cancer Res. 64, 7011–7021 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hemmati, H.D. et al. Cancerous stem cells can arise from pediatric brain tumors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100, 15178–15183 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Singh, S.K. et al. Identification of a cancer stem cell in human brain tumors. Cancer Res. 63, 5821–5828 (2003).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Singh, S.K. et al. Identification of human brain tumour initiating cells. Nature 432, 396–401 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Clement, V., Dutoit, V., Marino, D., Dietrich, P.Y. & Radovanovic, I. Limits of CD133 as a marker of glioma self-renewing cells. Int. J. Cancer 125, 244–248 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Wang, J. et al. CD133 negative glioma cells form tumors in nude rats and give rise to CD133 positive cells. Int. J. Cancer 122, 761–768 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Beier, D. et al. CD133(+) and CD133(−) glioblastoma-derived cancer stem cells show differential growth characteristics and molecular profiles. Cancer Res. 67, 4010–4015 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Ogden, A.T. et al. Identification of A2B5+CD133− tumor-initiating cells in adult human gliomas. Neurosurgery 62, 505–514 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hill, R.P. Identifying cancer stem cells in solid tumors: case not proven. Cancer Res. 66, 1891–1895 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kern, S.E. & Shibata, D. The fuzzy math of solid tumor stem cells: a perspective. Cancer Res. 67, 8985–8988 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Yuan, X. et al. Isolation of cancer stem cells from adult glioblastoma multiforme. Oncogene 23, 9392–9400 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Piccirillo, S.G. et al. Bone morphogenetic proteins inhibit the tumorigenic potential of human brain tumour-initiating cells. Nature 444, 761–765 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Park, D.M. et al. N-CoR pathway targeting induces glioblastoma derived cancer stem cell differentiation. Cell Cycle 6, 467–470 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Reya, T., Morrison, S.J., Clarke, M.F. & Weissman, I.L. Stem cells, cancer, and cancer stem cells. Nature 414, 105–111 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Clement, V., Sanchez, P., de Tribolet, N., Radovanovic, I. & Ruiz, I.A.A. HEDGEHOG-GLI1 signaling regulates human glioma growth, cancer stem cell self-renewal, and tumorigenicity. Curr. Biol. 17, 165–172 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gunther, H.S. et al. Glioblastoma-derived stem cell-enriched cultures form distinct subgroups according to molecular and phenotypic criteria. Oncogene 27, 2897–2909 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Phillips, H.S. et al. Molecular subclasses of high-grade glioma predict prognosis, delineate a pattern of disease progression, and resemble stages in neurogenesis. Cancer Cell 9, 157–173 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kann, O., Schuchmann, S., Buchheim, K. & Heinemann, U. Coupling of neuronal activity and mitochondrial metabolism as revealed by NAD(P)H fluorescence signals in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures of the rat. Neuroscience 119, 87–100 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Schuchmann, S., Kovacs, R., Kann, O., Heinemann, U. & Buchheim, K. Monitoring NAD(P)H autofluorescence to assess mitochondrial metabolic functions in rat hippocampal-entorhinal cortex slices. Brain Res. Brain Res. Protoc. 7, 267–276 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Reyes, J.M. et al. Metabolic changes in mesenchymal stem cells in osteogenic medium measured by autofluorescence spectroscopy. Stem Cells 24, 1213–1217 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Buzzeo, M.P., Scott, E.W. & Cogle, C.R. The hunt for cancer-initiating cells: a history stemming from leukemia. Leukemia 21, 1619–1627 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kaplan, R.N., Psaila, B. & Lyden, D. Niche-to-niche migration of bone-marrow-derived cells. Trends Mol. Med. 13, 72–81 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Campbell, L.L. & Polyak, K. Breast tumor heterogeneity: cancer stem cells or clonal evolution? Cell Cycle 6, 2332–2338 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Gilbertson, R.J. & Rich, J.N. Making a tumour's bed: glioblastoma stem cells and the vascular niche. Nat. Rev. Cancer 7, 733–736 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Doetsch, F., Caille, I., Lim, D.A., Garcia-Verdugo, J.M. & Alvarez-Buylla, A. Subventricular zone astrocytes are neural stem cells in the adult mammalian brain. Cell 97, 703–716 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Dontu, G., Al-Hajj, M., Abdallah, W.M., Clarke, M.F. & Wicha, M.S. Stem cells in normal breast development and breast cancer. Cell Prolif. 36 (Suppl. 1), 59–72 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by the foundations “Anita et Werner Damm-Etienne” and “Ernest and Lucie Schmidheiny” and in part by the Centre d'Imagerie Biomedicale of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the University of Lausanne, the University of Geneva and by the Leenaards and Jeantet foundations, as well as by Marie Curie action of the European Union (MRTN-CT-2006-035801) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (3100AO-108266/1). We thank K. Burkhardt for providing access to tissue sample collection and S.G. Clarkson for critical input.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



I.R. and V.C. conceived the study and designed the experiments. V.C., D.M., M.-F.H., C.C. and V.M. performed all the experiments. I.R. and V.C. wrote the manuscript. P.-Y.D., M.E.H., R.G., N.d.T., V.C. and I.R. discussed, revised and checked the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ivan Radovanovic.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

V.C. and I.R. are authors of a patent (PCT/IB2008/054872) related to the technology described in this article and filed by the University of Geneva and Geneva University Hospitals. V.C., I.R. and D.M. are founders and shareholders of Stemergie Biotechnology, Inc.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figures 1–10 and Supplementary Tables 1–11 (PDF 2544 kb)

About this article

Cite this article

Clément, V., Marino, D., Cudalbu, C. et al. Retracted: Marker-independent identification of glioma-initiating cells. Nat Methods 7, 224–228 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Cancer

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Cancer newsletter — what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Cancer