Background: Glioblastoma is the most aggressive subtype of brain tumors. The major component of tumor microenvironment in glioblastoma is tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), which are associated with enhanced malignancy of glioblastoma. The polarization of macrophages to the pro-inflammatory M1 or anti-inflammatory M2 subtypes governed by the context of tumor microenvironment may dictate the aggressiveness and outcome of glioblastoma. Given that the immune responses to tumors vary distinctively among individuals due to intrinsic, environmental and genetic factors and that TAMs display a high level of diversity and plasticity, we aimed to examine the effects of differential polarization of TAMs on the glioblastoma development by implanting C6 glioma into brains of Sprague–Dawley (SD) and Wistar rats; these two rats have different genetic background and host microenvironment during tumor development.
Methods: Sprague–Dawley (SD) and Wistar rats were implanted with C6 glioma in the brain. The measurement of tumor volumes, tumor morphology and tumor growth in C6 glioma implanted brains were measured by multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Immunofluorescence staining was performed to analyze tumor angiogenesis and M1 and M2 TAMs in C6 gliomas.
Results: By multi-parametric MRI measurement, C6 gliomas developed in the SD rats were characterized with enlarged tumors, accompanied with shorter animal survival. In comparison to the gliomas in Wistar rats, the accelerated tumor growth in SD rats was associated with greater extent of angiogenesis accompanied with higher levels of VEGF/VEGFR2. In support, C6 gliomas in SD rats were filtrated with TAMs characterized with a higher M2/M1 ratio, in contrast to the TAMs of a high M1/M2 ratio in Wistar rats. Attempts were made to shift the M2/M1 balance. Administration of the cytokine IFN-γ that induces M1 TAMs to SD rats greatly suppressed glioma formation, accompanied with a remarkable increase of M1 TAMs. Administration of the cytokines IL-4 plus IL-10 that induces M2 TAMs significantly promoted glioma growth in the Wistar rats, associated with an increase in the M2 TAMs.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate an important role of TAMs in glioma pathogenesis and the crucial role of microenvironment in dictating the polarization of TAMs, suggesting that targeting or repolarization of TAMs may serve as an effective intervention for gliomas.