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Mol Cancer Res. 2009 Nov;7(11):1756-70. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-09-0207. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

Fibulin-3 is uniquely upregulated in malignant gliomas and promotes tumor cell motility and invasion.

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Center for Molecular Neurobiology, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Malignant gliomas are highly invasive tumors with an almost invariably rapid and lethal outcome. Surgery and chemoradiotherapy fail to remove resistant tumor cells that disperse within normal tissue, which are a major cause for disease progression and therapy failure. Infiltration of the neural parenchyma is a distinctive property of malignant gliomas compared with other solid tumors. Thus, glioma cells are thought to produce unique molecular changes that remodel the neural extracellular matrix and form a microenvironment permissive for their motility. Here, we describe the unique expression and proinvasive role of fibulin-3, a mesenchymal matrix protein specifically upregulated in gliomas. Fibulin-3 is downregulated in peripheral tumors and is thought to inhibit tumor growth. However, we found fibulin-3 highly upregulated in gliomas and cultured glioma cells, although the protein was undetectable in normal brain or cultured astrocytes. Overexpression and knockdown experiments revealed that fibulin-3 did not seem to affect glioma cell morphology or proliferation, but enhanced substrate-specific cell adhesion and promoted cell motility and dispersion in organotypic cultures. Moreover, orthotopic implantation of fibulin-3-overexpressing glioma cells resulted in diffuse tumors with increased volume and rostrocaudal extension compared with controls. Tumors and cultured cells overexpressing fibulin-3 also showed elevated expression and activity of matrix metalloproteases, such as MMP-2/MMP-9 and ADAMTS-5. Taken together, our results suggest that fibulin-3 has a unique expression and protumoral role in gliomas, and could be a potential target against tumor progression. Strategies against this glioma-specific matrix component could disrupt invasive mechanisms and restrict the dissemination of these tumors.

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