Glioblastoma hijacks neuronal mechanisms for brain invasion

Varun Venkataramani*, Yvonne Yang, Marc Cicero Schubert, Ekin Reyhan, Svenja Kristin Tetzlaff, Niklas Wißmann, Michael Botz, Stella Judith Soyka, Carlo Antonio Beretta, Rangel Lyubomirov Pramatarov, Laura Fankhauser, Luciano Garofano, Alexander Freudenberg, Julia Wagner, Dimitar Ivanov Tanev, Miriam Ratliff, Ruifan Xie, Tobias Kessler, Dirk C. Hoffmann, Ling HaiYvette Dörflinger, Simone Hoppe, Yahaya A. Yabo, Anna Golebiewska, Simone P. Niclou, Felix Sahm, Anna Lasorella, Martin Slowik, Leif Döring, Antonio Iavarone, Wolfgang Wick, Thomas Kuner*, Frank Winkler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


Glioblastomas are incurable tumors infiltrating the brain. A subpopulation of glioblastoma cells forms a functional and therapy-resistant tumor cell network interconnected by tumor microtubes (TMs). Other subpopulations appear unconnected, and their biological role remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that whole-brain colonization is fueled by glioblastoma cells that lack connections with other tumor cells and astrocytes yet receive synaptic input from neurons. This subpopulation corresponds to neuronal and neural-progenitor-like tumor cell states, as defined by single-cell transcriptomics, both in mouse models and in the human disease. Tumor cell invasion resembled neuronal migration mechanisms and adopted a Lévy-like movement pattern of probing the environment. Neuronal activity induced complex calcium signals in glioblastoma cells followed by the de novo formation of TMs and increased invasion speed. Collectively, superimposing molecular and functional single-cell data revealed that neuronal mechanisms govern glioblastoma cell invasion on multiple levels. This explains how glioblastoma's dissemination and cellular heterogeneity are closely interlinked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2899-2917.e31
Number of pages19
Issue number16
Early online date31 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2022


  • cancer neuroscience
  • cell heterogeneity
  • glioblastoma
  • glutamatergic synapse
  • neurogliomal synapses
  • neuron-tumor interaction
  • tumor cell networks
  • tumor microtubes


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