Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, CANBI-PHD (2018)
Bachelor of Science, University of California Berkeley, Chemical Biology (2008)
High-grade gliomas (HGG) are a devastating group of cancers, and represent the leading cause of brain tumour-related death in both children and adults. Therapies aimed at mechanisms intrinsic to glioma cells have translated to only limited success; effective therapeutic strategies will need also to target elements of the tumour microenvironment that promote glioma progression. Neuronal activity promotes the growth of a range of molecularly and clinically distinct HGG types, including adult and paediatric glioblastoma (GBM), anaplastic oligodendroglioma, and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). An important mechanism that mediates this neural regulation of brain cancer is activity-dependent cleavage and secretion of the synaptic adhesion molecule neuroligin-3 (NLGN3), which promotes glioma proliferation through the PI3K-mTOR pathway. However, the necessity of NLGN3 for glioma growth, the proteolytic mechanism of NLGN3 secretion, and the further molecular consequences of NLGN3 secretion in glioma cells remain unknown. Here we show that HGG growth depends on microenvironmental NLGN3, identify signalling cascades downstream of NLGN3 binding in glioma, and determine a therapeutically targetable mechanism of secretion. Patient-derived orthotopic xenografts of paediatric GBM, DIPG and adult GBM fail to grow in Nlgn3 knockout mice. NLGN3 stimulates several oncogenic pathways, such as early focal adhesion kinase activation upstream of PI3K-mTOR, and induces transcriptional changes that include upregulation of several synapse-related genes in glioma cells. NLGN3 is cleaved from both neurons and oligodendrocyte precursor cells via the ADAM10 sheddase. ADAM10 inhibitors prevent the release of NLGN3 into the tumour microenvironment and robustly block HGG xenograft growth. This work defines a promising strategy for targeting NLGN3 secretion, which could prove transformative for HGG therapy.
View details for PubMedID 28959975
Active neurons exert a mitogenic effect on normal neural precursor and oligodendroglial precursor cells, the putative cellular origins of high-grade glioma (HGG). By using optogenetic control of cortical neuronal activity in a patient-derived pediatric glioblastoma xenograft model, we demonstrate that active neurons similarly promote HGG proliferation and growth in vivo. Conditioned medium from optogenetically stimulated cortical slices promoted proliferation of pediatric and adult patient-derived HGG cultures, indicating secretion of activity-regulated mitogen(s). The synaptic protein neuroligin-3 (NLGN3) was identified as the leading candidate mitogen, and soluble NLGN3 was sufficient and necessary to promote robust HGG cell proliferation. NLGN3 induced PI3K-mTOR pathway activity and feedforward expression of NLGN3 in glioma cells. NLGN3 expression levels in human HGG negatively correlated with patient overall survival. These findings indicate the important role of active neurons in the brain tumor microenvironment and identify secreted NLGN3 as an unexpected mechanism promoting neuronal activity-regulated cancer growth.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.012
View details for PubMedID 25913192
View details for Web of Science ID 000460646301422
The nervous system plays a central role in regulating the stem cell niche in many organs, and thereby pivotally modulates development, homeostasis, and plasticity. A similarly powerful role for neural regulation of the cancer microenvironment is emerging. Neurons promote the growth of cancers of the brain, skin, prostate, pancreas, and stomach. Parallel mechanisms shared in development and cancer suggest that neural modulation of the tumor microenvironment may prove a universal theme, although the mechanistic details of such modulation remain to be discovered for many malignancies. We review here what is known about the influences of active neurons on stem cell and cancer microenvironments across a broad range of tissues, and we discuss emerging principles of neural regulation of development and cancer.
View details for PubMedID 28718448
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5518622