Elevated fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 expression transforms proneural-like gliomas into more aggressive and lethal brain cancer

Nina P. Connolly, Rebeca Galisteo, Su Xu, Eli E. Bar, Sen Peng, Nhan L. Tran, Heather M. Ames, Anthony J. Kim, Graeme F. Woodworth, Jeffrey A. Winkles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-grade gliomas (HGGs) are aggressive, treatment-resistant, and often fatal human brain cancers. The TNF-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK)/fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 (Fn14) signaling axis is involved in tissue repair after injury and constitutive signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of numerous solid cancers. The Fn14 gene is expressed at low levels in the normal, uninjured brain but is highly expressed in primary isocitrate dehydrogenase wild-type and recurrent HGGs. Fn14 signaling is implicated in numerous aspects of glioma biology including brain invasion and chemotherapy resistance, but whether Fn14 overexpression can directly promote tumor malignancy has not been reported. Here, we used the replication-competent avian sarcoma-leukosis virus/tumor virus A system to examine the impact of Fn14 expression on glioma development and pathobiology. We found that the sole addition of Fn14 to an established oncogenic cocktail previously shown to generate proneural-like gliomas led to the development of highly invasive and lethal brain cancer with striking biological features including extensive pseudopalisading necrosis, constitutive canonical and noncanonical NF-κB pathway signaling, and high plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) expression. Analyses of HGG patient datasets revealed that high human PAI-1 gene (SERPINE1) expression correlates with shorter patient survival, and that the SERPINE1 and Fn14 (TNFRSF12A) genes are frequently co-expressed in bulk tumor tissues, in tumor subregions, and in malignant cells residing in the tumor microenvironment. These findings provide new insights into the potential importance of Fn14 in human HGG pathobiology and designate both the NF-κB signaling node and PAI-1 as potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Main Points: This work demonstrates that elevated levels of the TWEAK receptor Fn14 in tumor-initiating, neural progenitor cells leads to the transformation of proneural-like gliomas into more aggressive and lethal tumors that exhibit constitutive NF-κB pathway activation and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 overexpression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2199-2214
Number of pages16
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Fn14
  • NF-κB
  • PAI-1
  • RCAS/tv-a model
  • glioblastoma
  • high-grade glioma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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