The tumor microenvironment is considered to play an important role in tumor formation and progression by providing both negative and positive signals that influence tumor cell growth. We and others have previously shown that brain tumor (glioma) formation in Nf1 genetically engineered mice requires a microenvironment composed of cells heterozygous for a targeted Nf1 mutation. Using NF1 as a model system to understand the contribution of the tumor microenvironment to glioma formation, we show that Nf1+/- brain microglia produce specific factors that promote Nf1-/- astrocyte growth in vitro and in vivo and identify hyaluronidase as one of these factors in both genetically engineered Nf1 mouse and human NF1-associated optic glioma. We further demonstrate that blocking hyaluronidase ameliorates the ability of Nf1+/- microglia to increase Nf1-/- astrocyte proliferation and that hyaluronidase increases Nf1-/- astrocyte proliferation in an MAPK-dependent fashion. Lastly, inhibiting microglia activation in genetically engineered Nf1 mice significantly reduces mouse optic glioma proliferation in vivo. Collectively, these studies identify Nf1+/- microglia as an important stromal cell type that promotes Nf1-/- astrocyte and optic glioma growth relevant to the pathogenesis of NF1-associated brain tumors and suggest that future brain therapies might be directed against paracrine factors produced by cells in the tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1112
Number of pages15
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2007


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