Glioblastoma is one of the most angiogenic malignancies, the neoplastic vessels of which are likely to arise by angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. An alternative mechanism of tumor vasculature is described, termed vasculogenic mimicry, by which highly aggressive tumor cells can form vessel-like structures themselves, by virtue of their high cellular plasticity. Evidence suggests that cancer stem cells acquire a multi-potent plastic phenotype and show vasculogenic potential. In this study, we report that glioblastoma stem-like cells (GSCs) can form vasculogenic mimicry in tumor xenografts and express pro-vascular molecules. We isolated GSCs from resected human glioblastoma tissues and demonstrated their stemness, differentiation, and in vivo tumor-initiating potential. Through a limiting dilution assay, CD133+ (CD133+-GSC) and CD133- (CD133--GSC) subpopulation of GSCs were obtained. Orthotopic xenotransplantation study revealed that these two subpopulations of GSCs shared similar efficacy in tumor formation but showed distinct intratumor vasculature. In comparison with CD133--GSC, a highly vascularized anaplastic tumor, mimicking vasculogenic mimicry, was found in CD133+-GSC-derived tumor xenografts. Subsets of CD133+-GSC but not CD133-- GSC were capable of vascular smooth muscle-like cell differentiation, in vitro and in vivo. In tumor xenografts, endothelium-associated CD31 gene was detected in implanted CD133--GSC and exclusively dispersed within the tumor tissues. Although, the detailed action mechanisms required further investigation, this study demonstrated the vasculogenic capacity of brain GSCs and their cellular plasticity. The results of expression of pro-vascular molecules and differentiation of vascular-like cells suggest that GSCs may contribute to form vessel-like structures and provide a blood supply for glioblastoma cells.
Keywords: Glioblastoma stem-like cells, transdifferentiation, vasculogenesis, vasculogenic mimicry, Vascular Mimicry, in vivo, vasculogenic, GSCs, xenotransplantation, malignancy, tumor
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