Disabled cell density sensing leads to dysregulated cholesterol synthesis in glioblastoma

Diane M. Kambach, Alan S. Halim, A. Gesine Cauer, Qian Sun, Carlos A. Tristan, Orieta Celiku, Aparna H. Kesarwala, Uma Shankavaram, Eric Batchelor, Jayne M. Stommel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A hallmark of cellular transformation is the evasion of contact-dependent inhibition of growth. To find new therapeutic targets for glioblastoma, we looked for pathways that are inhibited by high cell density in astrocytes but not in glioma cells. Here we report that glioma cells have disabled the normal controls on cholesterol synthesis. At high cell density, astrocytes turn off cholesterol synthesis genes and have low cholesterol levels, but glioma cells keep this pathway on and maintain high cholesterol. Correspondingly, cholesterol pathway upregulation is associated with poor prognosis in glioblastoma patients. Densely-plated glioma cells increase oxygen consumption, aerobic glycolysis, and the pentose phosphate pathway to synthesize cholesterol, resulting in a decrease in reactive oxygen species, TCA cycle intermediates, and ATP. This constitutive cholesterol synthesis is controlled by the cell cycle, as it can be turned off by cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors and it correlates with disabled cell cycle control though loss of p53 and RB. Finally, glioma cells, but not astrocytes, are sensitive to cholesterol synthesis inhibition downstream of the mevalonate pathway, suggesting that specifically targeting cholesterol synthesis might be an effective treatment for glioblastoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14860-14875
Number of pages16
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cycle
  • Cholesterol metabolism
  • Glioblastoma
  • Oxygen utilization
  • Pre-clinical cancer therapies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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