Modeling glioma growth and invasion in Drosophila melanogaster

Neoplasia. 2009 Sep;11(9):882-8. doi: 10.1593/neo.09576.


Glioblastoma is the most common and most malignant intrinsic human brain tumor, characterized by extensive invasion and proliferation of glial (astrocytic) tumor cells, frequent activation of tyrosine kinase receptor signaling pathways, relative resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and poor prognosis. Using the Gal4-UAS system, we have produced glioma models in Drosophila by overexpressing homologs of human tyrosine kinase receptors under control of the glia-specific promoter reversed polarity (repo). Glial overexpression of activated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) resulted in enhanced proliferation and migration of larval glial cells with increased numbers in the eye imaginal disc, diffuse tumor-like enlargement of the optic stalk, and marked ectopic invasion of glial cells along the optic nerve. Glial overexpression of the downstream kinase PI3K showed similar pathology. Overexpression of activated pvr (platelet-derived growth factor receptor/vascular endothelial growth factor receptor homolog) led to migration of glial cells along the optic nerve, whereas expression of activated htl (fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 homolog) and INR (insulin receptor) showed markedly elevated numbers of glial cells in the optic stalk. The EGFR/phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate kinase (PI3K) phenotype was partly reverted by the administration of the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib and completely rescued by the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin and the Akt inhibitor triciribine. We suggest that Drosophila models will be useful for deciphering signaling cascades underlying abnormal behavior of glioma cells for genetic screens to reveal interacting genes involved in gliomagenesis and for experimental therapy approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Eye / cytology
  • Eye / metabolism
  • Gefitinib
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Quinazolines
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptors, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Gefitinib