Spreading of Alpha Synuclein from Glioblastoma Cells towards Astrocytes Correlates with Stem-like Properties

Larisa Ryskalin, Francesca Biagioni, Gabriele Morucci, Carla L Busceti, Alessandro Frati, Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, Michela Ferrucci, Francesco Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence has been recently provided showing that, in baseline conditions, GBM cells feature high levels of α-syn which are way in excess compared with α-syn levels measured within control astrocytes. These findings are consistent along various techniques. In fact, they are replicated by using antibody-based protein detection, such as immuno-fluorescence, immuno-peroxidase, immunoblotting and ultrastructural stoichiometry as well as by measuring α-syn transcript levels at RT-PCR. The present manuscript further questions whether such a high amount of α-syn may be induced within astrocytes, which are co-cultured with GBM cells in a trans-well system. In astrocytes co-cultured with GBM cells, α-syn overexpression is documented. Such an increase is concomitant with increased expression of the stem cell marker nestin, along with GBM-like shifting in cell morphology. This concerns general cell morphology, subcellular compartments and profuse convolutions at the plasma membrane. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) allows us to assess the authentic amount and sub-cellular compartmentalization of α-syn and nestin within baseline GBM cells and the amount, which is induced within co-cultured astrocytes, as well as the shifting of ultrastructure, which is reminiscent of GBM cells. These phenomena are mitigated by rapamycin administration, which reverts nestin- and α-syn-related overexpression and phenotypic shifting within co-cultured astrocytes towards baseline conditions of naïve astrocytes. The present study indicates that: (i) α-syn increases in astrocyte co-cultured with GBM cells; (ii) α-syn increases in astrocytes along with the stem cell marker nestin; (iii) α-syn increases along with a GBM-like shift of cell morphology; (iv) all these changes are replicated in different GBM cell lines and are reverted by the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. The present findings indicate that α-syn does occur in high amount within GBM cells and may transmit to neighboring astrocytes as much as a stem cell phenotype. This suggests a mode of tumor progression for GBM cells, which may transform, rather than merely substitute, surrounding tissue; such a phenomenon is sensitive to mTOR inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1417
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 10 2022


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