Bone morphogenetic protein signaling mediated by ALK-2 and DLX2 regulates apoptosis in glioma-initiating cells

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Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling exerts antitumor activities in glioblastoma; however, its precise mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Here, we demonstrated that the BMP type I receptor ALK-2 (encoded by the ACVR1 gene) has crucial roles in apoptosis induction of patient-derived glioma-initiating cells (GICs), TGS-01 and TGS-04. We also characterized a BMP target gene, Distal-less homeobox 2 (DLX2), and found that DLX2 promoted apoptosis and neural differentiation of GICs. The tumor-suppressive effects of ALK-2 and DLX2 were further confirmed in a mouse orthotopic transplantation model. Interestingly, valproic acid (VPA), an anti-epileptic compound, induced BMP2, BMP4, ACVR1 and DLX2 mRNA expression with a concomitant increase in phosphorylation of Smad1/5. Consistently, we showed that treatment with VPA induced apoptosis of GICs, whereas silencing of ALK-2 or DLX2 expression partially suppressed it. Our study thus reveals BMP-mediated inhibitory mechanisms for glioblastoma, which explains, at least in part, the therapeutic effects of VPA.

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