Altered function of the glutamate–aspartate transporter GLAST, a potential therapeutic target in glioblastoma

Cristina Corbetta, Natalia Di Ianni, Maria Grazia Bruzzone, Monica Patanè, Bianca Pollo, Gabriele Cantini, Manuela Cominelli, Ileana Zucca, Federica Pisati, Pietro Luigi Poliani, Gaetano Finocchiaro, Serena Pellegatta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In glioma patients, high levels of glutamate can cause brain edema and seizures. GLAST, a glutamate–aspartate transporter expressed by astrocytes with a role in glutamate uptake, is highly expressed on the plasma membrane of glioblastoma (GBM) cells, and its expression significantly correlates with shortened patient survival. Here, it was demonstrated that inhibition of GLAST expression limited the progression and invasion of GBM xenografts. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to measure glutamate in GLAST-expressing gliomas showing that these tumors exhibit increased glutamate concentration compared to GLAST-depleted glioma. Despite their GLAST expression, GBM stem-like cells (GSCs) released rather than taking up glutamate due to their lack of Na+/K+-ATPase. Overexpression of Na+/K+-ATPase in these cells restored glutamate uptake and induced apoptosis. The therapeutic relevance of targeting GLAST in gliomas was assessed using the inhibitor UCPH-101. In glioma-bearing mice, a single intratumoral injection of UCPH-101 significantly increased survival by decreasing GLAST expression and inducing apoptosis. Thus, GLAST has a novel role in GBM that appears to have crucial relevance in glutamate trafficking and may thus be a new therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • glioblastoma
  • glutamate
  • STAT3
  • UCPH-101

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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