JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results





Cancer Research

Coculture Assays to Study Macrophage and Microglia Stimulation of Glioblastoma Invasion

Published: October 20th, 2016



1New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics, Kean University, 2Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 3The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at North Shore-LIJ, 4Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Understanding the malignant behavior of cancer requires creating accurate models of how tumor cells interact with components of the tumor microenvironment, such as macrophages. Here we describe two methods to study glioblastoma cell interaction with tumor associated macrophages and microglia where the effect on glioblastoma invasion is assessed.

Glioblastoma multiforme (grade IV glioma) is a very aggressive human cancer with a median survival of 1 year post diagnosis. Despite the increased understanding of the molecular events that give rise to glioblastomas, this cancer still remains highly refractory to conventional treatment. Surgical resection of high grade brain tumors is rarely complete due to the highly infiltrative nature of glioblastoma cells. Therapeutic approaches which attenuate glioblastoma cell invasion therefore is an attractive option. Our laboratory and others have shown that tumor associated macrophages and microglia (resident brain macrophages) strongly stimulate glioblastoma invasion. The protocol described in this paper is used to model glioblastoma-macrophage/microglia interaction using in vitro culture assays. This approach can greatly facilitate the development and/or discovery of drugs that disrupt the communication with the macrophages that enables this malignant behavior. We have established two robust coculture invasion assays where microglia/macrophages stimulate glioma cell invasion by 5 - 10 fold. Glioblastoma cells labelled with a fluorescent marker or constitutively expressing a fluorescent protein are plated without and with macrophages/microglia on matrix-coated polycarbonate chamber inserts or embedded in a three dimensional matrix. Cell invasion is assessed by using fluorescent microscopy to image and count only invasive cells on the underside of the filter. Using these assays, several pharmacological inhibitors (JNJ-28312141, PLX3397, Gefitinib, and Semapimod), have been identified which block macrophage/microglia stimulated glioblastoma invasion.

Glioblastoma multiforme is an aggressive human brain cancer with a median survival of approximately 12 months from the time of diagnosis 1,2. Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly and clinically challenging cancers as it is refractory to standard chemotherapy and surgical resection. The diffuse nature of glioblastoma enables tumor cells to spread throughout the normal brain making the advanced tumor practically impossible to surgically resect completely. This highly invasive aspect is a hallmark feature of glioblastoma and other advanced astrocytomas. Therefore, the focus of much research has been on the molecular mechanism of glioblastoma cell invasion. T....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

1. Fluorescent Labeling of Cells

NOTE: Label glioblastoma cell lines and microglia with fluorescent dyes 9. Alternatively, generate cell lines that constitutively express fluorescent proteins such as GFP/RFP as described in 14.

  1. Plate cells on a 6 well plate such that they will be 70 - 80% confluent on day of staining. For the murine glioblastoma cell line GL261 and human glioblastoma cell line U87, plate 1 x 106 and 1.5 x 106 cells, respectively on a 6 cm dis.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Using the methods outlined here, we have shown that microglia and macrophages can substantially stimulate glioblastoma cell invasion. Two different invasion assays are employed and are depicted in Figure 1. In Figure 2, GL261 cells that constitutively express the fluorescent protein mCherry were plated on pre-coated chambers with and without microglia for 48 hr. GL261 cells were minimally invasive on their own however when cultured with microglia the inva.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The highly invasive nature of high grade astrocytomas and glioblastoma make these brain cancers very deadly. It is therefore of paramount importance to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of glioblastoma invasion. Much has been learned about the process of glioblastoma invasion already 17. Using the assay formats detailed in this paper, our laboratory has shown in both mouse and human models that tumor associated macrophages can stimulate glioma cell invasion by 5 - 10 fold. This coculture model f.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

We would like to thank Dr. Konstantin Dobrenis for providing murine microglia for these studies.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Corning BioCoat Matrigel Invasion Chamber: With BD Matrigel Matrix Corning/Fisher Scientific Cat: 354481
Macrophage Serum Free Media (MSFM) (500 ml) Life Technologies 12065-074
CellTracker Red CMTPX Dye Life Technologies/Molecular Probes C34552
CellTracker Green CMFDA Dye Life Technologies/Molecular Probes C2925
GL261 cell line National Cancer Institute (NCI)
U87 cell line American Tissue Type Culture Collection HTB-14
THP-1 cell line American Tissue Type Culture Collection ATCC TIB-202
RPMI 1640 Medium (500 ml) Life Technologies/Gibco 11875-093
Formaldehyde solution Sigma Aldrich F1635
Corning Transwell polycarbonate membrane cell culture inserts (8 µM pore) 48 per pack. Corning CLS3422
Cultrex 3-D Culture Matrix Reduced Growth Factor Basement Membrane Extract, PathClear Trevigen 3445-005-01
Fetal Calf Serum (FBS) Life Technologies Cat: 10500064
Bovine Serum Albumin, Fraction V, Heat Shock Treated Fisherscientific BP1600-100
0.5M EDTA ThermoFisher Scientific 15575-020
phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) Sigma Aldrich P8139-1MG

  1. Buckner, J. C., et al. Central nervous system tumors. Mayo Clin Proc. 82 (10), 1271-1286 (2007).
  2. Furnari, F. B., et al. Malignant astrocytic glioma: genetics, biology, and paths to treatment. Genes. Dev. 21 (21), 2683-2710 (2007).
  3. Charles, N. A., Holland, E. C., Gilbertson, R., Glass, R., Kettenmann, H. The brain tumor microenvironment. Glia. 60 (3), 502-514 (2012).
  4. Li, W., Graeber, M. B. The molecular profile of microglia under the influence of glioma. Neuro. Oncol. 14 (8), 958-978 (2012).
  5. Watters, J. J., Schartner, J. M., Badie, B. Microglia function in brain tumors. J. Neurosci. Res. 81 (3), 447-455 (2005).
  6. Zhai, H., Heppner, F. L., Tsirka, S. E. Microglia/macrophages promote glioma progression. Glia. 59 (3), 472-485 (2011).
  7. Bettinger, I., Thanos, S., Paulus, W. Microglia promote glioma migration. Acta Neuropathol. 103 (4), 351-355 (2002).
  8. Wesolowska, A., et al. Microglia-derived TGF-beta as an important regulator of glioblastoma invasion: an inhibition of TGF-beta-dependent effects by shRNA against human TGF-beta type II receptor. Oncogene. 27 (7), 918-930 (2008).
  9. Coniglio, S. J., et al. Microglial stimulation of glioblastoma invasion involves epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF-1R) signaling. Mol Med. 18, 519-527 (2012).
  10. Miller, I. S., et al. Semapimod sensitizes glioblastoma tumors to ionizing radiation by targeting microglia. PLoS One. 9 (5), (2014).
  11. Goswami, S., et al. Macrophages promote the invasion of breast carcinoma cells via a colony-stimulating factor-1/epidermal growth factor paracrine loop. Cancer Res. 65 (12), 5278-5283 (2005).
  12. House, R. P., et al. Two functional S100A4 monomers are necessary for regulating nonmuscle myosin-IIA and HCT116 cell invasion. Biochemistry. 50 (32), 6920-6932 (2011).
  13. Wang, W., et al. The activity status of cofilin is directly related to invasion, intravasation, and metastasis of mammary tumors. J Cell Biol. 173 (3), 395-404 (2006).
  14. Zagzag, D. 1., Miller, D. C., Chiriboga, L., Yee, H., Newcomb, E. W. Green fluorescent protein immunohistochemistry as a novel experimental tool for the detection of glioma cell invasion in vivo. Brain Pathol. 13 (1), 34-37 (2003).
  15. Tsuchiya, S., et al. Establishment and characterization of a human acute monocytic leukemia cell line (THP-1). Int. J. Cancer. 26 (2), 171-176 (1980).
  16. Dobrenis, K. Microglia in cell culture and in transplantation therapy for central nervous system disease. Methods. 16 (3), 320-344 (1998).
  17. Coniglio, S. J., Segall, J. E. Molecular mechanism of microglia stimulated glioblastoma invasion. Matrix Biol. 32 (7-8), 372-380 (2013).
  18. See, A. P., Parker, J. J., Waziri, A. The role of regulatory T cells and microglia in glioblastoma-associated immunosuppression. J Neurooncol. 123 (3), 405-412 (2015).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved