Glioblastoma stem cells respond to differentiation cues but fail to undergo commitment and terminal cell cycle arrest

27 Feb 2018

Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive brain tumor whose growth is driven by stemcell-like cells. BMP signaling triggers cell-cycle exit and differentiation of GBM stem cells (GSCs) and, therefore, might have therapeutic value. However, the epigenetic mechanisms that accompany differentiation remain poorly defined. It is also unclear whether cell-cycle arrest is terminal. Here we find only a subset of GSC cultures exhibit astrocyte differentiation in response to BMP. Although overtly differentiated non-cycling astrocytes are generated, they remain vulnerable to cell-cycle re-entry and fail to appropriately reconfigure DNA methylation patterns. Chromatin accessibility mapping identified loci that failed to alter in response to BMP and these were enriched in SOX transcription factor-binding motifs. SOX transcription factors, therefore, may limit differentiation commitment. A similar propensity for cell-cycle re-entry and de-differentiation was observed in GSC-derived oligodendrocyte-like cells. These findings highlight significant obstacles to BMP-induced differentiation as therapy for GBM.