We have recently shown that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is produced by human malignant glioma cells and acts on tumor endothelial cells, which express VEGF receptors, suggesting that VEGF is a regulator of tumor angiogenesis. To investigate the feasibility of antiangiogenic brain tumor therapy, we developed an intracerebral (i.c.) rat glioma model. We used two transplantable rat glioma cells lines, C6 and GS-9L, to analyze VEGF regulation in vitro and expression of VEGF and its high affinity tyrosine kinase receptors, flt-1 and flk-1, in vivo. Glioma cells were transplanted i.c. or s.c. into syngeneic rats. C6 gliomas exhibit morphological characteristics of human glioblastoma multiforme such as necroses with palisading cells. Immunocytochemistry with von Willebrand factor showed that C6 gliomas are highly vascularized and therefore show another prominent feature of human glioblastoma. GS-9L gliosarcomas were less vascularized. In situ hybridization showed that VEGF is expressed in vivo in rat glioma cells which reside along necrotic areas and therefore closely mimicks the expression pattern of VEGF observed in human glioblastoma. flt-1 and flk-1 are specifically expressed in endothelial cells in the tumor and at the border between tumor and normal brain but are absent from endothelial cells in the normal brain proper. The action of VEGF may therefore be restricted to tumor endothelium. Upregulation of VEGF, but not acid fibroblast growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, and platelet-derived growth factor B messenger RNA was observed in hypoxic C6 and GS-9L cells in vitro. These observations are consistent with a role for VEGF in tumor- and hypoxia-induced angiogenesis. Since the expression pattern of VEGF and its receptors in rat glioma appears to be indistinguishable from human glioblastoma multiforme, this model provides an excellent tool to study anti-angiogenic therapy.

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This study was supported by a grant from Deutsche Krebshilfe (Mildred-Scheel-Stiftung).

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