Glioma cell invasion is significantly enhanced in composite hydrogel matrices composed of chondroitin 4- and 4,6-sulfated glycosaminoglycans
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive form of astrocytoma accounting for a majority of primary malignant brain tumors in the United States. Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) and their glycosaminoglycan (GAG) side chains are key constituents of the brain extracellular matrix (ECM) implicated in promoting tumor invasion. However, the mechanisms by which sulfated CS-GAGs promote brain tumor invasion are currently unknown. We hypothesize that glioma cell invasion is triggered by the altered sulfation of CS-GAGs in the tumor extracellular environment, and that this is potentially mediated by independent mechanisms involving CXCL12/CXCR4 and LAR signaling respectively. This was tested in vitro by encapsulating the human glioma cell line U87MG-EGFP into monosulfated (4-sulfated; CS-A), composite (4 and 4,6-sulfated; CS-A/E), unsulfated hyaluronic acid (HA), and unsulfated agarose (AG; polysaccharide) hydrogels within microfluidics-based choice assays. Our results demonstrated the enhanced preferential cell invasion into composite hydrogels, when compared to other hydrogel matrices (p < 0.05). Haptotaxis assays demonstrated the significantly (p < 0.05) faster migration of U87MG-EGFP cells in CXCL12 containing CS-GAG hydrogels when compared to other hydrogel matrices containing the same chemokine concentration. This is likely due to the significantly (p < 0.05) greater affinity of composite CS-GAGs to CXCL12 over other hydrogel matrices. Results from qRT-PCR assays further demonstrated the significant (p < 0.05) upregulation of the chemokine receptor CXCR4, and the CSPG receptor LAR in glioma cells within CS-GAG hydrogels compared to control hydrogels. Western blot analysis of cell lysates derived from glioma cells encapsulated in different hydrogel matrices further corroborate qRT-PCR results, and indicate the presence of a potential variant of LAR that is selectively expressed only in glioma cells encapsulated in CS-GAG hydrogels. These results suggest that sulfated CS-GAGs may directly induce enhanced invasion and haptotaxis of glioma cells associated with aggressive brain tumors via distinct mechanisms.