HBEGF promotes gliomagenesis in the context of Ink4a/Arf and Pten loss

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Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like growth factor (HBEGF) is a ligand for the EGF receptor (EGFR), one of the most commonly amplified receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) in glioblastoma (GBM). While HBEGF has been found to be expressed in a subset of malignant gliomas, its sufficiency for glioma initiation has not been evaluated. In this study, we demonstrate that HBEGF can initiate GBM in mice in the context of Ink4a/Arf and Pten loss, and that these tumors are similar to the classical GBM subtype observed in patients. Isogenic astrocytes from these mice showed activation not only of Egfr but also the RTK Axl in response to HBEGF stimulation. Deletion of either Egfr or Axl decreased the tumorigenic properties of HBEGF-transformed cells; however, only EGFR was able to rescue the phenotype in cells lacking both RTKs indicating that Egfr is required for activation of Axl in this context. Silencing of HBEGF in vivo resulted in tumor regression and significantly increased survival, suggesting that HBEGF may be a clinically relevant target.

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