Leptomeningeal tissue: A barrier against brain tumor cell invasion

Paal Henning Pedersen, Garry J. Rucklidge, Sverre J. Mørk, A. Jorge A. Terzis, Olav Engebraaten, Morten Lund-johansen, Erik Olof Backlund, Ole D. Laerum, Rolf Bjerkvig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Primary brain tumors are characterized by an extensive infiltrative growth into the surrounding brain tissue. This process is confined to the central nervous system, and tumor cell metastasis to other organs is rare. However, other tumors of non-neural origin may frequently metas-tasize to the central nervous system. Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to examine the invasive behavior of different glioma cells into tissues of neural (brain aggregates) as well as non-neural origin (leptomeningeal tissue). Using the same target tissues, the invasive characteristics of two neural metastatic tumors (one malignant melanoma and one small-cell lung carcinoma) were also studied. This direct comparison of the invasive behavior between tumors of neural and non-neural origin provides valuable information regarding the mechanisms of glioma cell dissemination in the central nervous system. Methods: The in vitro invasive behavior of human tumors of the central nervous system into human leptomeningeal tissue as well as into normal rat brain tissue was studied. For this purpose, a co-culture system consisting of tumor biopsy specimens, human leptomeningeal cell aggregates, and brain cell aggregates was established. Three glioblastomas, one oligodendroglioma, one meningioma, one small-cell lung carcinoma, and one malignant melanoma were studied. Results: In co-cultures of gliomas and leptomeningeal cell aggregates, a well-defined border between the two tissues was observed. The brain cell aggregates, in contrast, were consistently invaded by the glioma cells. The brain metastases showed a different invasion pattern. The metastatic cells invaded and progressively destroyed leptomeningeal cell aggregates, whereas they did not invade the brain cell aggregates. Upon confrontation of the leptomeningeal tissue with the meningioma, a fusion of the two tissues was observed. Immunostaining of the leptomeningeal tissue showed a strong expression of the basement membrane components fibronectin, collagen type IV, and laminin with no expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein, neuron-specific enolase, or S-100 protein. Conclusions: The present study indicates that there may be important biologic differences between the invasive behavior of gliomas and non-neuroepithelial tumors. Our co-culture experiments suggest that leptomeningeal cells and associated acellular components may constitute a barrier against glioma cell invasion. However, this barrier may not be functional for metastatic tumors to the brain. The presence of glioma cells within the leptomeninges should not necessarily be taken as evidence of aggressive growth or as an indicator of malignancy. [J Natl Cancer Inst 86:1593-1599, 1994].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1599
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 1994
Externally publishedYes


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