Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Paul B. Fisher


The most common malignant glioma, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), remains an intractable tumor despite advances in therapy. Its proclivity to infiltrate surrounding brain tissue contributes greatly to its treatment failure and the grim prognosis of patients. Radiation is a staple in modern therapeutic regimens, though cells surviving radiation become more aggressive and invasive. Consequently, it is imperative to define further the cellular mechanisms that control GBM invasion and identify promising novel therapeutic targets. Melanoma differentiation associated gene-9 (MDA-9/Syntenin) is a highly conserved PDZ domain-containing scaffolding protein that promotes invasion and metastasis in human melanoma models. We show that MDA-9/Syntenin is robustly expressed in GBM cell lines and patient samples, and expression increases by tumor grade. These findings are confirmed through database analysis, which revealed MDA-9/Syntenin expression correlates with shorter survival times and patient tumors high in MDA-9/Syntenin have a worse prognosis when undergoing radiotherapy. Modulating MDA-9/Syntenin levels produced changes in invasion, angiogenesis, and signaling, indicating MDA-9/Syntenin enhances glioma pathogenesis. Overexpression of MDA-9/Syntenin enhances invasion, while knockdown inhibits invasion, migration, and anchorage-independent growth in soft agar. MDA-9/Syntenin increases activation of c-Src, P38MAPK, and NF-kB, leading to elevated MMP2 expression and IL-8 secretion. Through an orthotopic tumor model, we show that shmda-9 tumor cells formed smaller tumors and had a less invasive phenotype in vivo. Knockdown of MDA-9/Syntenin radiosensitizes GBM cells and significantly reduces post-radiation invasion gains through abrogation of radiation-induced Src and EphA2 activity. In efforts to pharmacologically inhibit MDA-9/Syntenin, we describe the effects of a novel small molecule, PDZ1i, which targets the PDZ1 domain of MDA-9/Syntenin and successfully reduces invasion gains in GBM cells following radiation. While it does not effect astrocyte radiosensitivity, PDZ1i radiosensitizes GBM cells. PDZ1i inhibits crucial GBM signaling including FAK and mutant EGFR, EGFRvIII, and can negate gains in secreted proteases, such as MMP2 and MMP9, following radiation. In a model of glioma, PDZ1i treatment combined with radiation results in less invasive tumors and extends survival. Our findings indicate that MDA-9/Syntenin is a novel and important mediator of GBM pathogenesis, and further identify it as a targetable protein that enhances radiotherapy for treatment in glioma.


© Timothy P Kegelman

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