Savary K, Caglayan D, Caja L, Tzavlaki K, Bin Nayeem S, Bergström T, Jiang Y, Uhrbom L, Forsberg-Nilsson K, Westermark B, Heldin CH, Ferletta M, Moustakas A
Oncogene 32 (47) 5409-5420 [2013-11-21; online 2013-03-25]
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive brain malignancy characterized by high heterogeneity and invasiveness. It is increasingly accepted that the refractory feature of GBM to current therapies stems from the existence of few tumorigenic cells that sustain tumor growth and spreading, the so-called glioma-initiating cells (GICs). Previous studies showed that cytokines of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) family induce differentiation of the GICs, and thus act as tumor suppressors. Molecular pathways that explain this behavior of BMP cytokines remain largely elusive. Here, we show that BMP signaling induces Smad-dependent expression of the transcriptional regulator Snail in a rapid and sustained manner. Consistent with its already established promigratory function in other cell types, we report that Snail silencing decreases GBM cell migration. Consequently, overexpression of Snail increases GBM invasiveness in a mouse xenograft model. Surprisingly, we found that Snail depletes the GBM capacity to form gliomaspheres in vitro and to grow tumors in vivo, both of which are important features shared by GICs. Thus Snail, acting downstream of BMP signaling, dissociates the invasive capacity of GBM cells from their tumorigenic potential.