Perivascular signals alter global gene expression profile of glioblastoma and response to temozolomide in a gelatin hydrogel

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Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary malignant brain tumor, with patients exhibiting poor survival (median survival time: 15 months). Difficulties in treating GBM include not only the inability to resect the diffusively-invading tumor cells, but also therapeutic resistance. The perivascular niche (PVN) within the GBM tumor microenvironment contributes significantly to tumor cell invasion, cancer stem cell maintenance, and has been shown to protect tumor cells from radiation and chemotherapy. In this study, we examine how the inclusion of non-tumor cells in culture with tumor cells within a hydrogel impacts the overall gene expression profile of an in vitro artificial perivascular niche (PVN) comprised of endothelial and stromal cells directly cultured with GBM tumor cells within a methacrylamide-functionalized gelatin hydrogel. Using RNA-seq, we demonstrate that genes related to angiogenesis and extracellular matrix remodeling are upregulated in the PVN model compared to hydrogels containing only tumor or perivascular niche cells, while downregulated genes are related to cell cycle and DNA damage repair. Signaling pathways and genes commonly implicated in GBM malignancy, such as MGMT, EGFR, PI3K-Akt signaling, and Ras/MAPK signaling are also upregulated in the PVN model. We describe the kinetics of gene expression within the PVN hydrogels over a course of 14 days, observing the patterns associated with tumor cell-mediated endothelial network co-option and regression. We finally examine the effect of temozolomide, a frontline chemotherapy used clinically against GBM, on the PVN culture. Notably, the PVN model is less responsive to TMZ compared to hydrogels containing only tumor cells. Overall, these results demonstrate that inclusion of cellular and matrix-associated elements of the PVN within an in vitro model of GBM allows for the development of gene expression patterns and therapeutic response relevant to GBM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-134
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Drug response
  • Glioblastoma
  • Hydrogel
  • Perivascular niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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