Cysteine cathepsins B, X and K expression in peri-arteriolar glioblastoma stem cell niches

Barbara Breznik, Clara Limbaeck Stokin, Janko Kos, Mohammed Khurshed, Vashendriya V. V. Hira, Roman Bošnjak, Tamara T. Lah, Cornelis J. F. van Noorden

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Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most lethal brain tumor also due to malignant and therapy-resistant GBM stem cells (GSCs) that are localized in protecting hypoxic GSC niches. Some members of the cysteine cathepsin family of proteases have been found to be upregulated in GBM. Cathepsin K gene expression is highly elevated in GBM tissue versus normal brain and it has been suggested to regulate GSC migration out of the niches. Here, we investigated the cellular distribution of cathepsins B, X and K in GBM tissue and whether these cathepsins are co-localized in GSC niches. Therefore, we determined expression of these cathepsins in serial paraffin sections of 14 human GBM samples and serial cryostat sections of two samples using immunohistochemistry and metabolic mapping of cathepsin activity using selective fluorogenic substrates. We detected cathepsins B, X and K in peri-arteriolar GSC niches in 9 out of 16 GBM samples, which were defined by co-expression of the GSC marker CD133, the niche marker stromal-derived factor-1α (SDF-1α) and smooth muscle actin as a marker for arterioles. The expression of cathepsin B and X was detected in stromal cells and cancer cells throughout the GBM sections, whereas cathepsin K expression was more restricted to arteriole-rich regions in the GBM sections. Metabolic mapping showed that cathepsin B, but not cathepsin K is active in GSC niches. On the basis of these findings, it is concluded that cathepsins B, X and K have distinct functions in GBM and that cathepsin K is the most likely GSC niche-related cathepsin of the three cathepsins investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-497
JournalJournal of molecular histology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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