Crosstalk between microglia and patient-derived glioblastoma cells inhibit invasion in a three-dimensional gelatin hydrogel model

Jee Wei Emily Chen, Jan Lumibao, Sarah Leary, Jann N. Sarkaria, Andrew J. Steelman, H. Rex Gaskins, Brendan A.C. Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Glioblastoma is the most common and deadly form of primary brain cancer, accounting for more than 13,000 new diagnoses annually in the USA alone. Microglia are the innate immune cells within the central nervous system, acting as a front-line defense against injuries and inflammation via a process that involves transformation from a quiescent to an activated phenotype. Crosstalk between GBM cells and microglia represents an important axis to consider in the development of tissue engineering platforms to examine pathophysiological processes underlying GBM progression and therapy. Methods: This work used a brain-mimetic hydrogel system to study patient-derived glioblastoma specimens and their interactions with microglia. Here, glioblastoma cells were either cultured alone in 3D hydrogels or in co-culture with microglia in a manner that allowed secretome-based signaling but prevented direct GBM-microglia contact. Patterns of GBM cell invasion were quantified using a three-dimensional spheroid assay. Secretome and transcriptome (via RNAseq) were used to profile the consequences of GBM-microglia interactions. Results: Microglia displayed an activated phenotype as a result of GBM crosstalk. Three-dimensional migration patterns of patient-derived glioblastoma cells showed invasion was significantly decreased in response to microglia paracrine signaling. Potential molecular mechanisms underlying with this phenotype were identified from bioinformatic analysis of secretome and RNAseq data. Conclusion: The data demonstrate a tissue engineered hydrogel platform can be used to investigate crosstalk between immune cells of the tumor microenvironment related to GBM progression. Such multi-dimensional models may provide valuable insight to inform therapeutic innovations to improve GBM treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number346
JournalJournal of neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Glioblastoma
  • Hydrogel
  • Invasion
  • Microglia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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