Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Lipid metabolism enzyme ACSVL3 supports glioblastoma stem cell maintenance and tumorigenicity

Peng Sun1, Shuli Xia23, Bachchu Lal2, Xiaohai Shi2, Kil Sung Yang2, Paul A Watkins23 and John Laterra2345*

Author Affiliations

1 MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

2 Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger, Baltimore, MD, USA

3 Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

4 Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

5 Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:401  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-401

Published: 4 June 2014



Targeting cell metabolism offers promising opportunities for the development of drugs to treat cancer. We previously found that the fatty acyl-CoA synthetase VL3 (ACSVL3) is elevated in malignant brain tumor tissues and involved in tumorigenesis. This study investigates the role of ACSVL3 in the maintenance of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) stem cell self-renewal and the capacity of GBM stem cells to initiate tumor xenograft formation.


We examined ACSVL3 expression during differentiation of several GBM stem cell enriched neurosphere cultures. To study the function of ACSVL3, we performed loss-of-function by using small interfering RNAs to target ACSVL3 and examined stem cell marker expression, neurosphere formation and tumor initiation properties.


ACSVL3 expression levels were substantially increased in GBM stem cell enriched neurosphere cultures and decreased after differentiation of the neurospheres. Down-regulating ACSVL3 with small inhibiting RNAs decreased the expression of markers and regulators associated with stem cell self-renewal, including CD133, ALDH, Musashi-1 and Sox-2. ACSVL3 knockdown in neurosphere cells led to increased expression of differentiation markers GFAP and Tuj1. Furthermore, ACSVL3 knockdown reduced anchorage-independent neurosphere cell growth, neurosphere-forming capacity as well as self-renewal of these GBM stem cell enriched neurosphere cultures. In vivo studies revealed that ACSVL3 loss-of-function substantially inhibited the ability of neurosphere cells to propagate orthotopic tumor xenografts. A link between ACSVL3 and cancer stem cell phenotype was further established by the findings that ACSVL3 expression was regulated by receptor tyrosine kinase pathways that support GBM stem cell self-renewal and tumor initiation, including EGFR and HGF/c-Met pathways.


Our findings indicate that the lipid metabolism enzyme ACSVL3 is involved in GBM stem cell maintenance and the tumor-initiating capacity of GBM stem cell enriched-neurospheres in animals.

Lipid metabolism; ACSVL3; Glioblastoma; Cancer stem cell; Differentiation; Tumorigenicity