Non-inflammatory tumor microenvironment of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2018 Jun 28;6(1):51. doi: 10.1186/s40478-018-0553-x.


Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a universally fatal malignancy of the childhood central nervous system, with a median overall survival of 9-11 months. We have previously shown that primary DIPG tissue contains numerous tumor-associated macrophages, and substantial work has demonstrated a significant pathological role for adult glioma-associated macrophages. However, work over the past decade has highlighted many molecular and genomic differences between pediatric and adult high-grade gliomas. Thus, we directly compared inflammatory characteristics of DIPG and adult glioblastoma (GBM). We found that the leukocyte (CD45+) compartment in primary DIPG tissue samples is predominantly composed of CD11b + macrophages, with very few CD3+ T-lymphocytes. In contrast, T-lymphocytes are more abundant in adult GBM tissue samples. RNA sequencing of macrophages isolated from primary tumor samples revealed that DIPG- and adult GBM-associated macrophages both express gene programs related to ECM remodeling and angiogenesis, but DIPG-associated macrophages express substantially fewer inflammatory factors than their adult GBM counterparts. Examining the secretome of glioma cells, we found that patient-derived DIPG cell cultures secrete markedly fewer cytokines and chemokines than patient-derived adult GBM cultures. Concordantly, bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing data indicates low to absent expression of chemokines and cytokines in DIPG. Together, these observations suggest that the inflammatory milieu of the DIPG tumor microenvironment is fundamentally different than adult GBM. The low intrinsic inflammatory signature of DIPG cells may contribute to the lack of lymphocytes and non-inflammatory phenotype of DIPG-associated microglia/macrophages. Understanding the glioma subtype-specific inflammatory milieu may inform the design and application of immunotherapy-based treatments.

Keywords: Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma; Glioblastoma; Glioma; Immune microenvironment; Tumor-associated macrophage; Tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autopsy
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms / complications
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Encephalitis / etiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / physiology*
  • Glioma / chemistry
  • Glioma / complications
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • AIF1 protein, human
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Microfilament Proteins