The regulation of cysteine cathepsins and cystatins in human gliomas

Boris Gole, Peter C. Huszthy, Mara Popović, Jera Jeruc, Youssef S. Ardebili, Rolf Bjerkvig, Tamara T. Lah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Cysteine cathepsins play an important role in shaping the highly infiltrative growth pattern of human gliomas. We have previously demonstrated that the activity of cysteine cathepsins is elevated in invasive glioblastoma (GBM) cells in vitro, in part due to attenuation of their endogenous inhibitors, the cystatins. To investigate this relationship in vivo, we established U87-MG xenografts in non-obese diabetic (NOD)/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)-enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) mice. Here, tumor growth correlated with an elevated enzymatic activity of CatB both in the tumor core and at the periphery, whereas CatS and CatL levels were higher at the xenograft edge compared to the core. Reversely, StefB expression was detected in the tumor core, but it was generally absent in the tumor periphery, suggesting that down-regulation of this inhibitor correlates with in vivo invasion. In human GBM samples, all cathepsins were elevated at the tumor periphery compared to brain parenchyma. CatB was also typically associated with angiogenic endothelia and necrotic areas. StefB was mainly detected in the tumor core, whereas CysC and StefA were evenly distributed, reflecting the observations in the xenografts. However, at the mRNA level, no differences in cathepsins and cystatins were observed between the tumor center and the periphery in both human biopsies and xenografts. Interestingly, in human tumors, cathepsin and stefin transcript levels correlated with CD68 and CXCR4 levels, but not with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Moreover, we reveal for the first time that an elevated StefA mRNA level is a highly significant prognostic factor for patient survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1779-1789
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2012


  • animal models
  • cystatins
  • cysteine cathepsins
  • glioma
  • invasion
  • stefins


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