Musashi1 (MSI1) is an RNA-binding protein that plays critical roles in nervous-system development and stem-cell self-renewal. Here, we examined its role in the progression of glioma. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-based MSI1-knock down (KD) in glioblastoma and medulloblastoma cells resulted in a significantly lower number of self renewing colony on day 30 (a 65% reduction), compared with non-silencing shRNA-treated control cells, indicative of an inhibitory effect of MSI1-KD on tumor cell growth and survival. Immunocytochemical staining of the MSI1-KD glioblastoma cells indicated that they ectopically expressed metaphase markers. In addition, a 2.2-fold increase in the number of MSI1-KD cells in the G2/M phase was observed. Thus, MSI1-KD caused the prolongation of mitosis and reduced the cell survival, although the expression of activated Caspase-3 was unaltered. We further showed that MSI1-KD glioblastoma cells xenografted into the brains of NOD/SCID mice formed tumors that were 96.6% smaller, as measured by a bioluminescence imaging system (BLI), than non-KD cells, and the host survival was longer (49.3±6.1 days vs. 33.6±3.6 days; P>0.01). These findings and other cell biological analyses suggested that the reduction of MSI1 in glioma cells prolonged the cell cycle by inducing the accumulation of Cyclin B1. Furthermore, MSI1-KD reduced the activities of the Notch and PI 3 kinase-Akt signaling pathways, through the up-regulation of Numb and PTEN, respectively. Exposure of glioma cells to chemical inhibitors of these pathways reduced the number of spheres and living cells, as did MSI1-KD. These results suggest that MSI1 increases the growth and/or survival of certain types of glioma cells by promoting the activation of both Notch and PI 3 kinase/Akt signaling.
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