The dual action of glioma-derived exosomes on neuronal activity: synchronization and disruption of synchrony

Renza Spelat, Nie Jihua, Cesar Adolfo Sánchez Triviño, Simone Pifferi, Diletta Pozzi, Matteo Manzati, Simone Mortal, Irene Schiavo, Federica Spada, Melania Eva Zanchetta, Tamara Ius, Ivana Manini, Irene Giulia Rolle, Pietro Parisse, Ana P. Millán, Ginestra Bianconi, Fabrizia Cesca, Michele Giugliano, Anna Menini, Daniela CesselliMiran Skrap, Vincent Torre

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Seizures represent a frequent symptom in gliomas and significantly impact patient morbidity and quality of life. Although the pathogenesis of tumor-related seizures is not fully understood, accumulating evidence indicates a key role of the peritumoral microenvironment. Brain cancer cells interact with neurons by forming synapses with them and by releasing exosomes, cytokines, and other small molecules. Strong interactions among neurons often lead to the synchronization of their activity. In this paper, we used an in vitro model to investigate the role of exosomes released by glioma cell lines and by patient-derived glioma stem cells (GSCs). The addition of exosomes released by U87 glioma cells to neuronal cultures at day in vitro (DIV) 4, when neurons are not yet synchronous, induces synchronization. At DIV 7–12 neurons become highly synchronous, and the addition of the same exosomes disrupts synchrony. By combining Ca2+ imaging, electrical recordings from single neurons with patch-clamp electrodes, substrate-integrated microelectrode arrays, and immunohistochemistry, we show that synchronization and de-synchronization are caused by the combined effect of (i) the formation of new neuronal branches, associated with a higher expression of Arp3, (ii) the modification of synaptic efficiency, and (iii) a direct action of exosomes on the electrical properties of neurons, more evident at DIV 7–12 when the threshold for spike initiation is significantly reduced. At DIV 7–12 exosomes also selectively boost glutamatergic signaling by increasing the number of excitatory synapses. Remarkably, de-synchronization was also observed with exosomes released by glioma-associated stem cells (GASCs) from patients with low-grade glioma but not from patients with high-grade glioma, where a more variable outcome was observed. These results show that exosomes released from glioma modify the electrical properties of neuronal networks and that de-synchronization caused by exosomes from low-grade glioma can contribute to the neurological pathologies of patients with brain cancers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number705
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

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