Overlapping migratory mechanisms between neural progenitor cells and brain tumor stem cells

  • Natanael Zarco
  • Emily Norton
  • Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa
  • Hugo Guerrero-CázaresEmail author


Neural stem cells present in the subventricular zone (SVZ), the largest neurogenic niche of the mammalian brain, are able to self-renew as well as generate neural progenitor cells (NPCs). NPCs are highly migratory and traverse the rostral migratory stream (RMS) to the olfactory bulb, where they terminally differentiate into mature interneurons. NPCs from the SVZ are some of the few cells in the CNS that migrate long distances during adulthood. The migratory process of NPCs is highly regulated by intracellular pathway activation and signaling from the surrounding microenvironment. It involves modulation of cell volume, cytoskeletal rearrangement, and isolation from compact extracellular matrix. In malignant brain tumors including high-grade gliomas, there are cells called brain tumor stem cells (BTSCs) with similar stem cell characteristics to NPCs but with uncontrolled cell proliferation and contribute to tumor initiation capacity, tumor progression, invasion, and tumor maintenance. These BTSCs are resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and their presence is believed to lead to tumor recurrence at distal sites from the original tumor location, principally due to their high migratory capacity. BTSCs are able to invade the brain parenchyma by utilizing many of the migratory mechanisms used by NPCs. However, they have an increased ability to infiltrate the tight brain parenchyma and utilize brain structures such as myelin tracts and blood vessels as migratory paths. In this article, we summarize recent findings on the mechanisms of cellular migration that overlap between NPCs and BTSCs. A better understanding of the intersection between NPCs and BTSCs will to provide a better comprehension of the BTSCs’ invasive capacity and the molecular mechanisms that govern their migration and eventually lead to the development of new therapies to improve the prognosis of patients with malignant gliomas.


Subventricular zone Neurogenesis Neural progenitor cells Brain tumors Brain tumor stem cells Migratory mechanisms 



Authors are funded by the NCI (R21CA199295, R01CA183827, R01CA195503, R01CA216855, R01CA200399, R43CA221490), NINDS (R03NS109444), Florida State Department of Health Research Grant, and the Mayo Clinic Graduate School. AQH is supported by the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professorship and the Mayo Clinic Clinician Investigator.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurologic SurgeryMayo ClinicJacksonvilleUSA
  2. 2.Neuroscience Graduate ProgramMayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesJacksonvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeuroscienceMayo ClinicJacksonvilleUSA

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