Niche-derived soluble DLK1 promotes glioma growth

Elisa S. Grassi, Pauline Jeannot, Vasiliki Pantazopoulou, Tracy J. Berg, Alexander Pietras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tumor cell behaviors associated with aggressive tumor growth such as proliferation, therapeutic resistance, and stem cell characteristics are regulated in part by soluble factors derived from the tumor microenvironment. Tumor-associated astrocytes represent a major component of the glioma tumor microenvironment, and astrocytes have an active role in maintenance of normal neural stem cells in the stem cell niche, in part via secretion of soluble delta-like noncanonical Notch ligand 1 (DLK1). We found that astrocytes, when exposed to stresses of the tumor microenvironment such as hypoxia or ionizing radiation, increased secretion of soluble DLK1. Tumor-associated astrocytes in a glioma mouse model expressed DLK1 in perinecrotic and perivascular tumor areas. Glioma cells exposed to recombinant DLK1 displayed increased proliferation, enhanced self-renewal and colony formation abilities, and increased levels of stem cell marker genes. Mechanistically, DLK1-mediated effects on glioma cells involved increased and prolonged stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 2alpha, and inhibition of hypoxia-inducible factor 2alpha activity abolished effects of DLK1 in hypoxia. Forced expression of soluble DLK1 resulted in more aggressive tumor growth and shortened survival in a genetically engineered mouse model of glioma. Together, our data support DLK1 as a soluble mediator of glioma aggressiveness derived from the tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-701
Number of pages13
JournalNeoplasia (United States)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology

Free keywords

  • DLK1
  • Glioma
  • HIF-2a
  • Hypoxia
  • Stem cell niche
  • Tumor-associated astrocytes


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