GABA-A channel subunit expression in human glioma correlates with tumor histology and clinical outcome.

Smits A, Jin Z, Elsir T, Pedder H, Nistér M, Alafuzoff I, Dimberg A, Edqvist PH, Pontén F, Aronica E, Birnir B

PLoS ONE 7 (5) e37041 [2012-05-17; online 2012-05-17]

GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS and is present in high concentrations in presynaptic terminals of neuronal cells. More recently, GABA has been ascribed a more widespread role in the control of cell proliferation during development where low concentrations of extrasynaptic GABA induce a tonic activation of GABA receptors. The GABA-A receptor consists of a ligand-gated chloride channel, formed by five subunits that are selected from 19 different subunit isoforms. The functional and pharmacological properties of the GABA-A channels are dictated by their subunit composition. Here we used qRT-PCR to compare mRNA levels of all 19 GABA-A channel subunits in samples of human glioma (n = 29) and peri-tumoral tissue (n = 5). All subunits except the ρ1 and ρ3 subunit were consistently detected. Lowest mRNA levels were found in glioblastoma compared to gliomas of lower malignancy, except for the θ subunit. The expression and cellular distribution of the α1, γ1, ρ2 and θ subunit proteins was investigated by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays containing 87 gliomas grade II. We found a strong co-expression of ρ2 and θ subunits in both astrocytomas (r = 0.86, p<0.0001) and oligodendroglial tumors (r = 0.66, p<0.0001). Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards modeling to estimate the impact of GABA-A channel subunit expression on survival identified the ρ2 subunit (p = 0.043) but not the θ subunit (p = 0.64) as an independent predictor of improved survival in astrocytomas, together with established prognostic factors. Our data give support for the presence of distinct GABA-A channel subtypes in gliomas and provide the first link between specific composition of the A-channel and patient survival.

Tissue Profiling

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PubMed 22615883

DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0037041

Crossref 10.1371/journal.pone.0037041


pmc PMC3355166