Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most malignant primary brain tumor. Relapse occurs regularly, and the clinical behavior seems to be due to a therapy-resistant subpopulation of glioma-initiating cells that belong to the group of cancer stem cells. Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) has been identified as a marker for this cell population, and we have shown previously that ALDH1A3-positive GBM cells are more resistant against temozolomide (TMZ) treatment. However, it is still unclear how ALDH expression mediates chemoresistance.
ALDH1A3 expression was analyzed in 112 specimens from primary and secondary surgical resections of 56 patients with GBM (WHO grade IV). All patients received combined adjuvant radiochemotherapy. For experimental analysis, CRISPR-Cas9-induced knockout cells from three established GBM cell lines (LN229, U87MG, T98G) and two glioma stem-like cell lines were investigated after TMZ treatment.
ALDH1A3 knockout cells were more sensitive to TMZ, and oxidative stress seemed to be the molecular process where ALDH1A3 exerts its role in resistance against TMZ. Oxidative stress led to lipid peroxidation, yielding active aldehydes that were detoxified by ALDH enzymatic activity. During the metabolic process, autophagy was induced leading to downregulation of the enzyme, but ALDH1A3 is upregulated to even higher expression levels after finishing the TMZ therapy in vitro. Recurrent GBMs show significantly higher ALDH1A3 expression than the respective samples from the primary tumor, and patients suffering from GBM with high ALDH1A3 expression showed a shorter median survival time (12 months vs 21 months, P < .05).
Oxidative stress is an important and clinically relevant component of TMZ-induced therapeutic effects. Cytotoxicity seems to be mediated by aldehydes resulting from lipid peroxidation, and ALDH1A3 is able to reduce the number of toxic aldehydes. Therefore, we present a molecular explanation of the role of ALDH1A3 in therapeutic resistance of human GBM cells.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.