Non-invasive neural stem cells become invasive in vitro by combined FGF2 and BMP4 signaling.
In an attempt to identify genetic alterations occurring early in astrocytoma progression, we performed subtractive hybridization between astrocytoma and glioblastoma cDNA libraries. We identified secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC), a protein implicated in cell-matrix interactions, as a gene overexpressed early in progression. Northern blot and immunohistochemical analyses indicated that transcript and protein were both elevated in all tumor specimens (grades II-IV) examined when compared with levels in normal brain. The level of SPARC expression was found to be tumor-dependent rather than grade-related. Immunohistochemically, SPARC protein was found to be overexpressed in 1) cells in the less cellularly dense regions within the tumor mass, 2) histomorphologically neoplastic-looking cells in adjacent normal brain at the tumor/brain interface, 3) neovessel endothelial cells in both the tumor and adjacent normal brain, and 4) reactive astrocytes in normal brain adjacent to tumor. Using a combination of DNA in situ hybridization and protein immunohistochemical analyses of the human/rat xenograft, SPARC expression was observed in the human glioma cells within the tumor mass, and in cells that invaded along vascular basement membranes and individually into the rat brain parenchyma, suggesting it may be an invasion-related gene. While it remains to be determined whether SPARC functionally contributes to tumor cell invasion, these data suggest that the early onset of increased SPARC expression, though complex, may serve as a signal indicative of neoplastic astrocytic transformation and reactive response to tumor-induced stress.