• Open Access

A syngeneic glioma model to assess the impact of neural progenitor target cell age on tumor malignancy

Authors

  • Andrei M. Mikheev,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • Elizabeth A. Stoll,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • Svetlana A. Mikheeva,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • John-Patrick Maxwell,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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    • *

      current address: University of Toledo College of Medicine, Toledo, OH, USA

  • Pawel P. Jankowski,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • Sutapa Ray,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • Takuma Uo,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
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  • Richard S. Morrison,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
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  • Philip J. Horner,

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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  • Robert C. Rostomily

    1. Department of Neurological Surgery
    2. Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
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Robert C Rostomily, Department of Neurological Surgery, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Box 356470, 1959 NE Pacific St, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. Tel.: +1 206-543-3570; fax: +1 206-543-8315; e-mail: rosto@u.washington.edu

Summary

Human glioma incidence, malignancy, and treatment resistance are directly proportional to patient age. Cell intrinsic factors are reported to contribute to human age-dependent glioma malignancy, but suitable animal models to examine the role of aging are lacking. Here, we developed an orthotopic syngeneic glioma model to test the hypothesis that the age of neural progenitor cells (NPCs), presumed cells of glioma origin, influences glioma malignancy. Gliomas generated from transformed donor 3-, 12-, and 18-month-old NPCs in same-aged adult hosts formed highly invasive glial tumors that phenocopied the human disease. Survival analysis indicated increased malignancy of gliomas generated from older 12- and 18-month-old transformed NPCs compared with their 3-month counterparts (median survival of 38.5 and 42.5 vs. 77 days, respectively). This study showed for the first time that age of target cells at the time of transformation can affect malignancy and demonstrated the feasibility of a syngeneic model using transformed NPCs for future examination of the relative impacts of age-related cell intrinsic and cell-extrinsic factors in glioma malignancy.

Increased age has a negative impact on human malignant glioma survival and directly correlates with increased incidence, malignancy, and treatment resistance (Curran et al., 1993; Barker et al., 2001; CBTRUS 2005). However, little is known about age-related mechanisms that impact glioma malignancy. Previous animal studies reported conflicting impacts of host age-related immune function and neural progenitor cell (NPC) recruitment on survival (Wheeler et al., 2003; Glass et al., 2005), while human data suggest that age-related cell-intrinsic factors may affect glioma malignancy (Rosenblum et al., 1982). To examine the role of host age, we implanted GL261 glioma cells into syngeneic 3- and 18-month-old host C57Bl/6 mice and found no difference in survival (see supplemental Fig. S1). As NPCs are presumed glioma cells of origin (Stiles & Rowitch, 2008), we tested how NPC age influences glioma malignancy. Neural progenitor cells isolated from 3-, 12-, and 18-month-old C57Bl/6 mice formed neurospheres and demonstrated multi-potent differentiation (Fig. 1A,B). To validate molecular changes reported in aging NPCs (Molofsky et al., 2006), we confirmed that p16 tumor suppressor expression increased with NPC age (Fig. 1C,D). Like p16, loss of p53 tumor suppressor activity contributes significantly to human glioma pathogenesis, but in a nonoverlapping set of gliomas (Ohgaki & Kleihues, 2005). We found a striking age-related inverse relationship between p16 and p53 expression levels, with marked reductions in p53 expression and activity with increasing NPC age (Fig. 1E). These results indicated that NPCs of all ages demonstrated similarities, but were distinguished by unique profiles of tumor suppressor expression/activity highly relevant to human glioma pathogenesis.

Figure 1.

 Isolation and characterization of neural progenitor cells (NPC) from different-aged donor brain. (A) Representative neurospheres generated from NPCs isolated from 3-, 12-, and 18-month mouse forebrain cultures. (B) Multipotency in 3- and 18-month NPC cultures under differentiation conditions assayed by neuronal (MAP2), astrocytic (GFAP), and oligodendroglia (CNPase) marker expression (quantified in histogram below), scale bar = 20 μm. Expression levels of p16 message (C) and protein (D) increase proportionally with NPC age. (E) Basal and CPT-induced expression of p53 and its target gene, p21WAF1, decrease with increased NPC age. Long-exposure panel demonstrates steady-state p53 expression.

To determine the impact of NPC age on glioma malignancy, NPCs of different ages were transformed by over-expression of activated Ha-Ras (Ha-RasV12) and HPV18 E6E7 (to inhibit both p53 and the p16/Rb axis). All cultures demonstrated equivalent levels of exogenous Ras expression (Fig. S2) and expected alterations in p53 and Rb expression in vitro (data not shown). Intracranial implantation of equal numbers of transformed 3-, 12-, and 18-month-old NPCs into 4- to 6-month-old adult C57Bl/6 mice produced highly invasive GFAP and Olig2-positive glial tumors in all cases (Fig. 2A–C). Gliomas derived from 12- and 18-month transformed NPCs were distinguished by increased cellularity, less differentiated morphology, increased proliferation (Ki-67 LIs), and a distinct pattern of invasion with large cell aggregates as well as diffuse cellular invasion (Fig. 2B–D). Most importantly, animals with gliomas derived from 3-month NPCs survived nearly twice as long as those with gliomas from 12- and 18-month NPCs (77 vs. 38.5 and 42.5 days, respectively; log rank P = 0.01132 and 0.002, respectively; Fig. 2E).

Figure 2.

 Age-dependent malignancy of transformed neural progenitor cells in vivo. (A) Macroscopic appearance of representative 18-month tumor (arrow) compared with normal brain (left-ruler units = 1 mm) (B) Distinct age-related invasive growth patterns indicated by aggregate (arrows) and diffuse cell invasion in 12- and 18-month gliomas and lack of aggregate invasion in 3-month tumors. T-solid tumor, INV-invasive margin (dashed lines). Scale bar 170 μm. (C) Top panel – H&E histology demonstrates increased cellularity and less differentiated morphology of 18- vs. 3-month gliomas. Middle panels – GFAP and Olig2 expression confirm glial differentiation in both 3- and 18-month tumors. Lower panel – Representative images of Ki-67 positive cells (brown nuclei of various intensity) indicate increased proliferation in 18-month vs. 3-month glioma. Scale bars 90 μm/50 μm (top 3/lower panel, respectively). (D) Histogram demonstrates significant difference in mean Ki-67 LIs between 3- and 18-month gliomas (35% vs. 78%, respectively, P < 0.0026). (E) Kaplan–Meier survival analysis. Animals injected with 3-month transformed cells survived significantly longer than animals injected with 12- or 18-month transformed neural progenitor cells (77 vs. 38.5 and 42.5 days, respectively; log rank P = 0.01132 and 0.002, respectively).

This study of gliomas provides the first experimental evidence that increased age of transformation impacts the malignant potential of cancer target cells. The current findings are concordant with clinical observations that age-related cell intrinsic factors may play a leading role in the impact of age on glioma malignancy. The highly invasive glial growth patterns further support the clinical relevance of this syngeneic model and its usefulness for future studies to (i) determine how specific oncogenic mechanisms affect age-related malignancy, (ii) examine the role of p53 activity in NPC malignant potential, (iii) define the relative importance of target cell vs. host age on glioma malignancy, and (iv) determine how age-related cell-extrinsic host mechanisms such as immune function and recruitment of endogenous progenitor cells impact glioma malignancy.

Acknowledgments

We thank Rosemary Kimmel for her expert editorial assistance in the manuscript preparation. E.S. is supported by the University of Washington training grant in developmental biology. This work is supported by NIH grants: Clinical Neuroscience Training Grant NS007144, AG229406, NS046724 and NS35533.

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