Background: Studies of the role of the cytokine macrophage-migration-inhibitory-factor (MIF) in malignant tumors have revealed its stimulating influence on cell-cycle progression, angiogenesis and anti-apoptosis.
Results: Here we show that in vitro targeting MIF in cultures of human malignant glioblastoma cells by either antisense plasmid introduction or anti-MIF antibody treatment reduced the growth rates of tumor cells. Of note is the marked decrease of proliferation under confluent and over-confluent conditions, implying a role of MIF in overcoming contact inhibition. Several proteins involved in contact inhibition including p27, p21, p53 and CEBPalpha are upregulated in the MIF antisense clones indicating a restoration of contact inhibition in the tumor cells. Correspondingly, we observed a marked increase in MIF mRNA and protein content under higher cell densities in LN18 cells. Furthermore, we showed the relevance of the enzymatic active site of MIF for the proliferation of glioblastoma cells by using the MIF-tautomerase inhibitor ISO-1.
Conclusion: Our study adds another puzzle stone to the role of MIF in tumor growth and progression by showing the importance of MIF for overcoming contact inhibition.