Extracellular Sphingosine-1-Phosphate: A Novel Actor in Human Glioblastoma Stem Cell Survival

Elena Riccitelli, Paola Giussani, Clara Di Vito, Giuseppe Condomitti, Cristina Tringali, Manuela Caroli, Rossella Galli, Paola Viani, Laura Riboni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glioblastomas are the most frequent and aggressive intracranial neoplasms in humans, and despite advances and the introduction of the alkylating agent temozolomide in therapy have improved patient survival, resistance mechanisms limit benefits. Recent studies support that glioblastoma stem-like cells (GSCs), a cell subpopulation within the tumour, are involved in the aberrant expansion and therapy resistance properties of glioblastomas, through still unclear mechanisms. Emerging evidence suggests that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) a potent onco-promoter able to act as extracellular signal, favours malignant and chemoresistance properties in GSCs. Notwithstanding, the origin of S1P in the GSC environment remains unknown. We investigated S1P metabolism, release, and role in cell survival properties of GSCs isolated from either U87-MG cell line or a primary culture of human glioblastoma. We show that both GSC models, grown as neurospheres and expressing GSC markers, are resistant to temozolomide, despite not expressing the DNA repair protein MGMT, a major contributor to temozolomide-resistance. Pulse experiments with labelled sphingosine revealed that both GSC types are able to rapidly phosphorylate the long-chain base, and that the newly produced S1P is efficiently degraded. Of relevance, we found that S1P was present in GSC extracellular medium, its level being significantly higher than in U87-MG cells, and that the extracellular/intracellular ratio of S1P was about ten-fold higher in GSCs. The activity of sphingosine kinases was undetectable in GSC media, suggesting that mechanisms of S1P transport to the extracellular environment are constitutive in GSCs. In addition we found that an inhibitor of S1P biosynthesis made GSCs sensitive to temozolomide (TMZ), and that exogenous S1P reverted this effect, thus involving extracellular S1P as a GSC survival signal in TMZ resistance. Altogether our data implicate for the first time GSCs as a pivotal source of extracellular S1P, which might act as an autocrine/paracrine signal contributing to their malignant properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere68229
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 24 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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