Differential response of glioma stem cells to arsenic trioxide therapy is regulated by MNK1 and mRNA translation

Jonathan B. Bell, Frank Eckerdt, Harshil D. Dhruv, Darren Finlay, Sen Peng, Seungchan Kim, Barbara Kroczynska, Elspeth M. Beauchamp, Kristen Alley, Jessica Clymer, Stewart Goldman, Shi Yuan Cheng, C. David James, Ichiro Nakano, Craig Horbinski, Andrew P. Mazar, Kristiina Vuori, Priya Kumthekar, Jeffrey Raizer, Michael E. BerensLeonidas C. Platanias*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Mesenchymal (MES) and proneural (PN) are two distinct glioma stem cell (GSC) populations that drive therapeutic resistance in glioblastoma (GBM). We screened a panel of 650 small molecules against patient-derived GBM cells to discover compounds targeting specific GBM subtypes. Arsenic trioxide (ATO), an FDA-approved drug that crosses the blood-brain barrier, was identified as a potent PN-specific compound in the initial screen and follow-up validation studies. Furthermore,MESandPNGSCs exhibited differential sensitivity to ATO. As ATO has been shown to activate the MAPK-interacting kinase 1 (MNK1)-eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) pathway and subsequent mRNA translation in a negative regulatory feedback manner, the mechanistic role of ATO resistance in MES GBM was explored. In GBM cells, ATO-activated translation initiation cellular events via theMNK1-eIF4E signaling axis. Furthermore, resistance toATOin intracranial PDX tumors correlated with high eIF4E phosphorylation. Polysomal fractionation and microarray analysis of GBM cells were performed to identify ATO's effect onmRNAtranslation and enrichment of anti-apoptotic mRNAs in the ATO-induced translatome was found. Additionally, it was determined thatMNK inhibition sensitized MES GSCs to ATO in neurosphere and apoptosis assays. Finally, examination of the effect of ATO on patients from a phase I/II clinical trial of ATO revealed that PN GBM patients responded better to ATO than other subtypes as demonstrated by longer overall and progression-free survival. Implications: These findings raise the possibility of a unique therapeutic approach for GBM, involving MNK1 targeting to sensitize MES GSCs to drugs like arsenic trioxide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-46
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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