Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most malignant brain tumor of adults and is characterized by extensive cell dissemination within the brain parenchyma and enhanced angiogenesis. Effective preclinical modeling of these key features suffers from several shortcomings. Aim of this study was to determine whether modulating the expression of extracellular matrix (ECM) modifiers in proneural (PN) and mesenchymal (MES) cancer stem cells (CSCs) and in conventional glioma cell lines (GCLs) might improve tumor invasion and vascularization. To this end, we selected secreted, acidic and rich in cysteine-like 1 (SPARCL1) as a potential mediator of ECM remodeling in GBM. SPARCL1 transcript and protein expression was assessed in PN and MES CSCs as well as GCLs, in their xenografts and in patient-derived specimens by qPCR, WB and IHC. SPARCL1 expression was then enforced in both CSCs and GCLs by lentiviral-based transduction. The effect of SPARCL1 gain-of-function on microvascular proliferation, microglia activation and advanced imaging features was tested in intracranial xenografts by IHC and MRI and validated by chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assays. SPARCL1 expression significantly enhanced the infiltrative and neoangiogenic features of PN and MES CSC/GCL-induced tumors, with the concomitant activation of inflammatory responses associated with the tumor microenvironment, thus resulting in experimental GBMs that reproduced both the parenchymal infiltration and the increased microvascular density, typical of GBM. Overall, these results indicate that SPARCL1 overexpression might be instrumental for the generation of CSC-derived preclinical models of GBM in which the main pathognomonic hallmarks of GBMs are retrievable, making them suitable for effective preclinical testing of therapeutics.
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