Pleiotrophin promotes vascular abnormalization in gliomas and correlates with poor survival in patients with astrocytomas

Sci Signal. 2015 Dec 8;8(406):ra125. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aaa1690.


Glioblastomas are aggressive astrocytomas characterized by endothelial cell proliferation and abnormal vasculature, which can cause brain edema and increase patient morbidity. We identified the heparin-binding cytokine pleiotrophin as a driver of vascular abnormalization in glioma. Pleiotrophin abundance was greater in high-grade human astrocytomas and correlated with poor survival. Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), which is a receptor that is activated by pleiotrophin, was present in mural cells associated with abnormal vessels. Orthotopically implanted gliomas formed from GL261 cells that were engineered to produce pleiotrophin showed increased microvessel density and enhanced tumor growth compared with gliomas formed from control GL261 cells. The survival of mice with pleiotrophin-producing gliomas was shorter than that of mice with gliomas that did not produce pleiotrophin. Vessels in pleiotrophin-producing gliomas were poorly perfused and abnormal, a phenotype that was associated with increased deposition of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in direct proximity to the vasculature. The growth of pleiotrophin-producing GL261 gliomas was inhibited by treatment with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib, the ALK inhibitor ceritinib, or the VEGF receptor inhibitor cediranib, whereas control GL261 tumors did not respond to either inhibitor. Our findings link pleiotrophin abundance in gliomas with survival in humans and mice, and show that pleiotrophin promotes glioma progression through increased VEGF deposition and vascular abnormalization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Animals
  • Astrocytoma / genetics
  • Astrocytoma / metabolism*
  • Astrocytoma / mortality*
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / mortality*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Survival Rate
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, mouse
  • pleiotrophin
  • ALK protein, human
  • Alk protein, mouse
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases