Differential exposure of tumor cells to blood-borne and angiocrine factors results in diverse metabolic microenvironments conducive for non-genetic tumor cell diversification. Here, we harnessed a methodology for retrospective sorting of fully functional, stroma-free cancer cells solely on the basis of their relative distance from blood vessels (BVs) to unveil the whole spectrum of genes, metabolites, and biological traits impacted by BV proximity. In both grafted mouse tumors and natural human glioblastoma (GBM), mTOR activity was confined to few cell layers from the nearest perfused vessel. Cancer cells within this perivascular tier are distinguished by intense anabolic metabolism and defy the Warburg principle through exercising extensive oxidative phosphorylation. Functional traits acquired by perivascular cancer cells, namely, enhanced tumorigenicity, superior migratory or invasive capabilities, and, unexpectedly, exceptional chemo- and radioresistance, are all mTOR dependent. Taken together, the study revealed a previously unappreciated graded metabolic zonation directly impacting the acquisition of multiple aggressive tumor traits.
Keywords: blood vessels; glioblastoma; mTOR pathway; metabolic compartmentalization; tumor heterogeneity; tumor microenvironment; tumor vasculature.
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