Background: Tumor heterogeneity is a major obstacle for finding effective treatment of Glioblastoma (GBM). Based on global expression analysis, GBM can be classified into distinct subtypes: Proneural, Neural, Classical and Mesenchymal. The signatures of these different tumor subtypes may reflect the phenotypes of cells giving rise to them. However, the experimental evidence connecting any specific subtype of GBM to particular cells of origin is lacking. In addition, it is unclear how different genetic alterations interact with cells of origin in determining tumor heterogeneity. This issue cannot be addressed by studying end-stage human tumors.
Methodology/principal findings: To address this issue, we used retroviruses to deliver transforming genetic lesions to glial progenitors in adult mouse brain. We compared the resulting tumors to human GBM. We found that different initiating genetic lesions gave rise to tumors with different growth rates. However all mouse tumors closely resembled the human Proneural GBM. Comparative analysis of these mouse tumors allowed us to identify a set of genes whose expression in humans with Proneural GBM correlates with survival.
Conclusions/significance: This study offers insights into the relationship between adult glial progenitors and Proneural GBM, and allows us to identify molecular alterations that lead to more aggressive tumor growth. In addition, we present a new preclinical model that can be used to test treatments directed at a specific type of GBM in future studies.