Autocrine/paracrine sphingosine-1-phosphate fuels proliferative and stemness qualities of glioblastoma stem cells

Giovanni Marfia, Rolando Campanella, Stefania Elena Navone, Clara Di Vito, Elena Riccitelli, Loubna Abdel Hadi, Andrea Bornati, Gisele de Rezende, Paola Giussani, Cristina Tringali, Paola Viani, Paolo Rampini, Giulio Alessandri, Eugenio Parati, Laura Riboni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accumulating reports suggest that human glioblastoma contains glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) which act as key determinants driving tumor growth, angiogenesis, and contributing to therapeutic resistance. The proliferative signals involved in GSC proliferation and progression remain unclear. Using GSC lines derived from human glioblastoma specimens with different proliferative index and stemness marker expression, we assessed the hypothesis that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) affects the proliferative and stemness properties of GSCs. The results of metabolic studies demonstrated that GSCs rapidly consume newly synthesized ceramide, and export S1P in the extracellular environment, both processes being enhanced in the cells exhibiting high proliferative index and stemness markers. Extracellular S1P levels reached nM concentrations in response to increased extracellular sphingosine. In addition, the presence of EGF and bFGF potentiated the constitutive capacity of GSCs to rapidly secrete newly synthesized S1P, suggesting that cooperation between S1P and these growth factors is of central importance in the maintenance and proliferation of GSCs. We also report for the first time that S1P is able to act as a proliferative and pro-stemness autocrine factor for GSCs, promoting both their cell cycle progression and stemness phenotypic profile. These results suggest for the first time that the GSC population is critically modulated by microenvironmental S1P, this bioactive lipid acting as an autocrine signal to maintain a pro-stemness environment and favoring GSC proliferation, survival and stem properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1968-1981
Number of pages14
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2014


  • CD133
  • Ceramide
  • Growth factors
  • Sphingolipid metabolism
  • Stem cell niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Medicine(all)


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