Glioma-derived exosomes drive the differentiation of neural stem cells to astrocytes

Exosomes appear to be effective inter-cellular communicators delivering several types of molecules, such as proteins and RNAs, suggesting that they could influence neural stem cell (NSC) differentiation. RNA sequencing studies by researchers at Arkansas State University demonstrated that the RNAs related to cell proliferation and astrocyte differentiation were upregulated in human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) when co-cultured with exosomes obtained from the culture medium of human glioma cells (U87). Metallothionein 3 and elastin genes, which are related to cell proliferation, increased 10 and 7.2 fold, respectively. Expression of genes for astrocyte differentiation, such as tumor growth factor alpha, induced protein 3 of the NOTCH1 family, colony stimulating factor and interleukin 6 of the STAT3 family and Hes family bHLH transcription factor 1 also increased by 2.3, 10, 4.7 and 2.9 fold, respectively. The researchers further examined the effects of these exosomes on rat fetal neural stem cell (rNSC) differentiation using the secreted exosomes from U87 glioma cells or exosomes from U87 cells that were stimulated with interleukin 1β (IL-1β). The rNSCs, extracted from rat brains at embryonic day 14 (E14), underwent a culture protocol that normally leads to predominant (~90%) differentiation to ODCs. However, in the presence of the exosomes from untreated or IL-1β-treated U87 cells, significantly more cells differentiated into astrocytes, especially in the presence of exosomes obtained from the IL-1β-challenged glioma cells. Moreover, glioma-derived exosomes appeared to inhibit rNSC differentiation into ODCs or astrocytes as indicated by a significantly increased population of unlabeled cells. A portion of the resulting astrocytes co-expressed both CD133 and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) suggesting that exosomes from U87 cells could promote astrocytic differentiation of NSCs with features expected from a transformed cell. These data clearly demonstrated that exosomes secreted by human glioma cells provide a strong driving force for rat neural stem cells to differentiate into astrocytes, uncovering potential pathways and therapeutic targets that might control this aggressive tumor type.

Immunocytochemistry of differentiated NSCs after 10 days
showing many astrocytes expressed glioma feature

NPCs were maintained under ODC differentiation medium and treated with (A) exosome I and (B) exosome II. After 10 days in culture, cells were immunostained to reveal the co-expression of GFAP (red) and CD133 (green) (C). DAPI was used to stain nuclei (blue). Scale bar 200 μm (A and B) and 100 μm (C). (D) Cell count analysis of GFAP and CD133 expressing cells. Data represent mean ± SD.

Sharma KD, Schaal D, Kore RA, Hamzah RN, Pandanaboina SC, Hayar A, et al. (2020) Glioma-derived exosomes drive the differentiation of neural stem cells to astrocytes. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0234614. [article]

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