A distinct subset of glioma cell lines with stem cell-like properties reflects the transcriptional phenotype of glioblastomas and overexpresses CXCR4 as therapeutic target



Glioblastomas contain stem-like cells that can be maintained in vitro using specific serum-free conditions. We investigated whether glioblastoma stem-like (GS) cell lines preserve the expression phenotype of human glioblastomas more closely than conventional glioma cell lines. Expression profiling revealed that a distinct subset of GS lines, which displayed a full stem-like phenotype (GSf), mirrored the expression signature of glioblastomas more closely than either other GS lines or cell lines grown in serum. GSf lines are highly tumorigenic and invasive in vivo, express CD133, grow spherically in vitro, are multipotent and display a Proneural gene expression signature, thus recapitulating key functional and transcriptional aspects of human glioblastomas. In contrast, GS lines with a restricted stem-like phenotype exhibited expression signatures more similar to conventional cell lines than to original patient tumors, suggesting that the transcriptional resemblance between GS lines and tumors is associated with different degrees of “stemness”. Among markers overexpressed in patient tumors and GSf lines, we identified CXCR4 as a potential therapeutic target. GSf lines contained a minor population of CXCR4hi cells, a subfraction of which coexpressed CD133 and was expandable by hypoxia, whereas conventional cell lines contained only CXCR4lo cells. Convection-enhanced local treatment with AMD3100, a specific CXCR4 antagonist, inhibited the highly invasive growth of GS xenografts in vivo and cell migration in vitro. We thus demonstrate the utility of GSf lines in testing therapeutic agents and validate CXCR4 as a target to block the growth of invasive tumor-initiating glioma stem cells in vivo. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.