Herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-tk) gene transfer and ganciclovir (GCV) administration have been suggested for the treatment of malignant gliomas. To understand tissue responses and possible ways to improve the treatment effect, we studied tumor growth, tissue reactions, and survival time after HSV-tk/GCV treatment in a syngeneic BT4C rat glioma model by mixing various ratios of stably transfected HSV-tk-expressing BT4C-tk glioma cells with wild-type BT4C glioma cells (percentage of BT4C-tk cells: 0%, 1%, 10%, 30%, 50%, and 100%), followed by injection into BDIX rat brains (n = 79). With the exception of some animals with end-stage tumors, very little astroglia or microglia reactivity was detected in the wild-type tumors as analyzed by immunocytochemistry using glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)-, vimentin-, human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen-DR-, OX-42-, and CD68-specific monoclonal antibodies. After 14 days of GCV treatment, tumors induced with ≥10% BT4C-tk cells showed a significant reduction in tumor size (P < .05) and prolonged survival-time (P<.01). Astrogliosis, as indicated by a strong GFAP and vimentin immunoreactivity, was seen in the tumor scar area. GFAP and vimentin reactivity was already present after the GCV treatment in tumors induced with 1% BT4C-tk cells. Much less human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen-DR-positive microglia was seen in the treated animals, indicating low microglia reactivity and immunoactivation against the tumor. However, GCV-treated tumors were positive for apoptosis, indicating that apoptosis is an important mechanism for cell death in the BT4C-tk glioma model. Our results suggest that ≥10% transfection efficiency is required for a successful reduction in BT4C glioma tumor size with HSV- tk/GCV treatment in vivo. Tissue reactions after 14 days of GCV treatment are characterized by astrogliosis and apoptosis, whereas microglia response and immunoactivation of the brain cells appear to play a minor role. Stimulation of the microglia response by gene transfer or other means might improve the efficacy of the HSV-tk/GCV treatment in vivo.
- Bystander effect
- Gene transfer
- Glial fibrillary acid protein
- Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging
- Thyroidine kinase