BACKGROUND: Glioma is the most common and primary brain tumors in adults. Despite the available multimodal therapies, glioma patients appear to have a poor prognosis. The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling is involved in tumorigenesis and emerged as a promising target for brain tumors. Glabrescione B (GlaB) has been recently identified as the first direct inhibitor of Gli1, the downstream effector of the pathway.
METHODS: We established the overexpression of Gli1 in murine glioma cells (GL261) and GlaB effect on cell viability. We used 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomic approach to obtain informative metabolic snapshots of GL261 cells acquired at different time points during GlaB treatment. The activation of AMP activated protein Kinase (AMPK) induced by GlaB was established by western blot. After the orthotopic GL261 cells injection in the right striatum of C57BL6 mice and the intranasal (IN) GlaB/mPEG5kDa-Cholane treatment, the tumor growth was evaluated. The High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) combined with Mass Spectrometry (MS) was used to quantify GlaB in brain extracts of treated mice.
RESULTS: We found that GlaB affected the growth of murine glioma cells both in vitro and in vivo animal model. Using an untargeted 1H-NMR metabolomic approach, we found that GlaB stimulated the glycolytic metabolism in glioma, increasing lactate production. The high glycolytic rate could in part support the cytotoxic effects of GlaB, since the simultaneous blockade of lactate efflux with α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (ACCA) affected glioma cell growth. According to the metabolomic data, we found that GlaB increased the phosphorylation of AMPK, a cellular energy sensor involved in the anabolic-to-catabolic transition.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that GlaB inhibits glioma cell growth and exacerbates Warburg effect, increasing lactate production. In addition, the simultaneous blockade of Gli1 and lactate efflux amplifies the anti-tumor effect in vivo, providing new potential therapeutic strategy for this brain tumor.