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Accession IconGSE50227

Glioma stem cell treatment with MELK-signaling inhibitors

Organism Icon Homo sapiens
Sample Icon 6 Downloadable Samples
Technology Badge Icon Affymetrix Human Genome U133 Plus 2.0 Array (hgu133plus2)

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Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a highly lethal brain tumor. Due to resistance to current therapies, patient prognosis remains poor and development of novel and effective GBM therapy is crucial. Glioma stem cells (GSCs) have gained attention as therapeutic target in GBM due to their relative resistance to current therapies and potent tumor-initiating ability. Recent studies including our own identified that the mitotic kinase, maternal embryonic leucine-zipper kinase (MELK), is highly expressed in GBM tissues, specifically in GSCs, and its expression is inversely correlated with the post-surgical survival period of GBM patients. In addition, patient-derived GSCs depend on MELK for their survival and growth both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we provide evidence that the kinase activity of MELK is essential for the action of MELK in GSCs and vital for GBM growth. We utilized in silico structure-based analysis for protein-compound interaction to predict that a recently identified small molecule, Compound 1 (C1), binds to the kinase-active site of MELK protein and eliminates MELK kinase activity in nanomolar concentrations. When treated with C1, GSCs undergo mitotic arrest and subsequent cellular apoptosis in vitro, a phenotype identical to that observed using MELK shRNA-mediated knockdown. C1 treatment strongly induces tumor cell apoptosis in slice cultures of GBM surgical specimens and attenuates growth of mouse intracranial tumors derived from GSCs in a dose-dependent manner. Lastly, C1 treatment sensitizes GSCs to radiation treatment. Collectively, these data indicate that targeting MELK kinase activity is a promising approach to attenuate GBM growth by eliminating GSCs in tumors.
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