Human glioblastoma multiforme (hGBM) is the most common, aggressive, and deadly form of brain cancer. A major obstacle to understanding the impact of extracellular cues on glioblastoma invasion is the absence of model matrix systems able to replicate compositional and structural elements of the glioma mass as well as the surrounding brain tissue. Contact with a primary extracellular matrix component in the brain, hyaluronan, is believed to play a pivotal role in glioma cell invasion and malignancy. In this study we report use of gelatin and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) based hydrogel platforms to evaluate the effect of extracellular (composition, mechanics, HA incorporation) and intracellular (epidermal growth factor receptor overexpression) factors on the malignant transformation of U87MG glioma cells. Three-dimensional culture platforms elicit significantly different responses of U87MG glioma cells versus standard 2D culture. Critically, grafting brain-mimetic hyaluronic acid (HA) into the hydrogel network was found to induce significant, dose-dependent alterations of markers of glioma malignancy versus non-grafted 3D gelatin or PEG hydrogels. Clustering of glioma cells was observed exclusively in HA containing gels and expression profiles of malignancy-associated genes were found to vary biphasically with incorporated HA content. We also found HA-induced expression of MMP-2 is blocked by+EGFR signaling, suggesting a connection between CD44 and EGFR in glioma malignancy. Together, this work describes an adaptable platform for manipulating the local extracellular microenvironment surrounding glioma cells and highlights the importance of developing such systems for investigating the etiology and early growth of glioblastoma multiforme tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7408-7417
Number of pages10
Issue number30
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Biomimetic material
  • Brain
  • Cell activation
  • Gelatin
  • Hyaluronic acid/hyaluronan
  • Hydrogel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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