March 1, 2021

Nucleolin is expressed in human fetal brain development and reactivated in human glial brain tumors regulating angiogenesis and vascular metabolism

Glioblastoma (GBM) is amongst the deadliest human cancers and is characterized by high levels of vascularisation. Angiogenesis is highly dynamic during brain development and almost quiescent in the adult brain, but is reactivated in vascular-dependent CNS pathologies such as brain tumors. Nucleolin (NCL) is a known regulator of cell proliferation and angiogenesis, but its roles on physiological and pathological brain vasculature remain unknown. Here, we studied the expression of Nucleolin in the neurovascular unit (NVU) in human fetal brains and human gliomas in vivo as well as its effects on sprouting angiogenesis and endothelial metabolism in vitro. Nucleolin is highly expressed in endothelial- and perivascular cells during brain development, downregulated in the adult brain, and upregulated in glioma. Moreover, Nucleolin expression in tumor- and blood vessel cells correlated with glioma malignancy in vivo. In culture, siRNA-mediated NCL knockdown reduced human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) sprouting angiogenesis, proliferation and filopodia extension, and reduced glucose metabolism. Mechanistically, RNA sequencing of Nucleolin knockdown in HUVECs revealed a putative p53-TIGAR-HK2 regulation of endothelial glycolysis. These findings identify Nucleolin as a neurodevelopmental factor reactivated in glioma that positively regulates sprouting angiogenesis and endothelial metabolism. Our findings have important implications in therapeutic targeting of glioma.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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