The interface between glial progenitors and gliomas

Acta Neuropathol. 2008 Nov;116(5):465-77. doi: 10.1007/s00401-008-0432-9. Epub 2008 Sep 11.


The mammalian brain and spinal cord contain heterogeneous populations of cycling, immature cells. These include cells with stem cell-like properties as well as progenitors in various stages of early glial differentiation. This latter population is distributed widely throughout gray and white matter and numerically represents an extremely large cell pool. In this review, we discuss the possibility that the glial progenitors that populate the adult CNS are one source of gliomas. Indeed, the marker phenotypes, morphologies, and migratory properties of cells in gliomas strongly resemble glial progenitors in many ways. We review briefly some salient features of normal glial development and then examine the similarities and differences between normal progenitors and cells in gliomas, focusing on the phenotypic plasticity of glial progenitors and the responses to growth factors in promoting proliferation and migration of normal and glioma cells, and discussing known mutational changes in gliomas in the context of how these might affect the proliferative and migratory behaviors of progenitors. Finally, we will discuss the "cancer stem cell" hypothesis in light of the possibility that glial progenitors can generate gliomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology*


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins