Modelling glioblastoma tumour-host cell interactions using adult brain organotypic slice co-culture

Maria Angeles Marques-Torrejon, Ester Gangoso, Steven M Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive incurable brain cancer. The cells that fuel the growth of tumours resemble neural stem cells found in the developing and adult mammalian forebrain. These are referred to as GBM stem cells (GSCs). Similar to neural stem cells, GSCs exhibit a variety of phenotypic states: dormant, quiescent, proliferative and differentiating. How environmental cues within the brain influence these distinct states is not well understood. Laboratory models of GBM can be generated using either genetically engineered mouse models, or via intracranial transplantation of cultured tumour initiating cells (mouse or human). Unfortunately, these approaches are expensive, time-consuming, low-throughput and ill-suited for monitoring of live cell behaviours. Here we explored whole adult brain coronal organotypic slices as an alternative model. Mouse adult brain slices remain viable in a serum-free basal media for several weeks. GSCs can be easily microinjected into specific anatomical sites ex vivo and we demonstrate distinct responses of engrafted GSCs to diverse microenvironments in the brain tissue. Within the subependymal zone - one of the adult neural stem cell niches - injected tumour cells could effectively engraft and respond to endothelial niche signals. Tumour transplanted slices were treated with the anti-mitotic drug temozolomide as proof-of-principle of the utility in modelling responses to existing treatments. Engraftment of mouse or human GSCs onto whole brain coronal organotypic brain slices therefore provides a simplified, yet flexible, experimental model. This will help to increase the precision and throughput of modelling GSC-host brain interactions and complements ongoing in vivo studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisease Models and Mechanisms
Early online date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2017


  • Journal Article


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