ZEB1 Promotes Invasion in Human Fetal Neural Stem Cells and Hypoxic Glioma Neurospheres

Ulf D. Kahlert, Abigail K. Suwala, Eric H. Raabe, Florian A. Siebzehnrubl, Maria J. Suarez, Brent A. Orr, Eli E. Bar, Jaroslaw Maciaczyk, Charles G. Eberhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Diffuse spread through brain parenchyma and the presence of hypoxic foci rimmed by neoplastic cells are two cardinal features of glioblastoma, and low oxygen is thought to drive movement of malignant gliomas in the core of the lesions. Transcription factors associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) have been linked to this invasion, and we found that hypoxia increased in vitro invasion up to fourfold in glioblastoma neurosphere lines and induced the expression of ZEB1. Immunohistochemical assessment of 295 surgical specimens consisting of various types of pediatric and adult brain cancers showed that ZEB1 expression was significantly higher in infiltrative lesions than less invasive tumors such as pilocytic astrocytoma and ependymoma. ZEB1 protein was also present in human fetal periventricular stem and progenitor cells and ZEB1 inhibition impaired migration of in vitro propagated human neural stem cells. The induction of ZEB1 protein in hypoxic glioblastoma neurospheres could be partially blocked by the HIF1alpha inhibitor digoxin. Targeting ZEB1 blocked hypoxia-augmented invasion of glioblastoma cells in addition to slowing them in normoxia. These data support the role for ZEB1 in invasive and high-grade brain tumors and suggest its key role in promoting invasion in the hypoxic tumor core as well as in the periphery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-732
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • EMT
  • ZEB1
  • glioma
  • hypoxia
  • neural stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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