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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 31;6(3):e18454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018454.

Activation of neural and pluripotent stem cell signatures correlates with increased malignancy in human glioma.

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  • 1Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The presence of stem cell characteristics in glioma cells raises the possibility that mechanisms promoting the maintenance and self-renewal of tissue specific stem cells have a similar function in tumor cells. Here we characterized human gliomas of various malignancy grades for the expression of stem cell regulatory proteins. We show that cells in high grade glioma co-express an array of markers defining neural stem cells (NSCs) and that these proteins can fulfill similar functions in tumor cells as in NSCs. However, in contrast to NSCs glioma cells co-express neural proteins together with pluripotent stem cell markers, including the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, Nanog and Klf4. In line with this finding, in high grade gliomas mesodermal- and endodermal-specific transcription factors were detected together with neural proteins, a combination of lineage markers not normally present in the central nervous system. Persistent presence of pluripotent stem cell traits could only be detected in solid tumors, and observations based on in vitro studies and xenograft transplantations in mice imply that this presence is dependent on the combined activity of intrinsic and extrinsic regulatory cues. Together these results demonstrate a general deregulated expression of neural and pluripotent stem cell traits in malignant human gliomas, and indicate that stem cell regulatory factors may provide significant targets for therapeutic strategies.

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