Research Papers:

Coordination of signalling networks and tumorigenic properties by ABL in glioblastoma cells

Fabienne Lamballe, Sara Toscano, Filippo Conti, Maria Arechederra, Nathalie Baeza, Dominique Figarella-Branger, Françoise Helmbacher and Flavio Maina _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:74747-74767. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12546

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Fabienne Lamballe1,*, Sara Toscano1,*, Filippo Conti1,*, Maria Arechederra1, Nathalie Baeza2, Dominique Figarella-Branger2, Françoise Helmbacher1 and Flavio Maina1

1 Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille (IBDM), Parc Scientifique de Luminy, Marseille, France

2 Aix-Marseille Université, Inserm, CRO2 UMR S911, Marseille, France

* These authors have contributed equally to the work

Correspondence to:

Flavio Maina, email:

Keywords: ABL, migration and invasion, tumorigenicity and self-renewal, RTK signalling, glioblastomas

Received: August 02, 2016 Accepted: September 29, 2016 Published: October 09, 2016


The cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase ABL exerts positive or negative effects in solid tumours according to the cellular context, thus functioning as a “switch modulator”. The therapeutic effects of drugs targeting a set of signals encompassing ABL have been explored in several solid tumours. However, the net contribution of ABL inhibition by these agents remains elusive as these drugs also act on other signalling components. Here, using glioblastoma (GBM) as a cellular paradigm, we report that ABL inhibition exacerbates mesenchymal features as highlighted by down-regulation of epithelial markers and up-regulation of mesenchymal markers. Cells with permanent ABL inhibition exhibit enhanced motility and invasive capabilities, while proliferation and tumorigenic properties are reduced. Intriguingly, permanent ABL inhibition also interferes with GBM neurosphere formation and with expression of stemness markers in sphere-cultured GBM cells. Furthermore, we show that the molecular and biological characteristics of GBM cells with impaired ABL are reversible by restoring ABL levels, thus uncovering a remarkable plasticity of GBM cells to ABL threshold. A phospho-signalling screen revealed that loss of tumorigenic and self-renewal properties in GBM cells under permanent ABL inhibition coincide with drastic changes in the expression and/or phosphorylation levels of multiple signalling components. Our findings identify ABL as a crucial player for migration, invasion, proliferation, tumorigenic, and stem-cell like properties of GBM cells. Taken together, this work supports the notion that the oncogenic role of ABL in GBM cells is associated with its capability to coordinate a signalling setting that determines tumorigenic and stem-cell like properties.

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