Expression and functional heterogeneity of chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CXCR7 in primary patient-derived glioblastoma cells

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59750. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059750. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary brain tumor in adults. The poor prognosis and minimally successful treatments of these tumors indicates a need to identify new therapeutic targets. Therapy resistance of GBMs is attributed to heterogeneity of the glioblastoma due to genetic alterations and functional subpopulations. Chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CXCR7 play important roles in progression of various cancers although the specific functions of the CXCL12-CXCR4-CXCR7 axis in GBM are less characterized. In this study we examined the expression and function of CXCR4 and CXCR7 in four primary patient-derived GBM cell lines of the proliferative subclass, investigating their roles in in vitro growth, migration, sphere and tube formation. CXCR4 and CXCR7 cell surface expression was heterogeneous both between and within each cell line examined, which was not reflected by RT-PCR analysis. Variable percentages of CXCR4+CXCR7- (CXCR4 single positive), CXCR4-CXCR7+ (CXCR7 single positive), CXCR4+CXCR7+ (double positive), and CXCR4-CXCR7- (double negative) subpopulations were evident across the lines examined. A subpopulation of slow cell cycling cells was enriched in CXCR4 and CXCR7. CXCR4+, CXCR7+, and CXCR4+/CXCR7+ subpopulations were able to initiate intracranial tumors in vivo. CXCL12 stimulated in vitro cell growth, migration, sphere formation and tube formation in some lines and, depending on the response, the effects were mediated by either CXCR4 or CXCR7. Collectively, our results indicate a high level of heterogeneity in both the surface expression and functions of CXCR4 and CXCR7 in primary human GBM cells of the proliferative subclass. Should targeting of CXCR4 and CXCR7 provide clinical benefits to GBM patients, a personalized treatment approach should be considered given the differential expression and functions of these receptors in GBM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / pharmacology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Receptors, CXCR / metabolism*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*


  • ACKR3 protein, human
  • CXCL12 protein, human
  • CXCR4 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Receptors, CXCR
  • Receptors, CXCR4