Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Oliver Bögler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle C. Barton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Howard Colman, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa A. Elferink, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zhimin Lu, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D.


Overexpression of the hepatocyte growth factor receptor (c-Met) and its ligand, the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and a constitutively active mutant of the epidermal growth factor receptor (∆EGFR/EGFRvIII), occur frequently in glioblastoma. c-Met is activated in a ligand-dependent manner by HGF or in a ligand-independent manner by ∆EGFR. Dysregulated c-Met signaling contributes to the aggressive phenotype of glioblastoma, yet the mechanisms underlying the production of HGF in glioblastoma are poorly understood. We found a positive correlation between HGF and c-Met expression in glioblastoma, suggesting that they are coregulated. This is supported by the finding that in a c-Met/HGF axis-dependent glioblastoma cell line, shRNA-mediated silencing of c-Met, or treatment with the c-Met inhibitor SU11274, attenuated HGF expression. Biologically, c-Met knockdown decreased anchorage-independent colony formation and the tumorigenicity of intracranial xenografts. Building on prior findings that ∆EGFR enhanced c-Met activation, we found that ∆EGFR also led to increased HGF expression, which was reversed upon ∆EGFR inhibition with AG1478. ∆EGFR required c-Met to maintain elevated HGF expression, colony formation of glioblastoma cells, and the tumorigenicity of orthotopic xenografts. An unbiased mass spectrometry-based approach identified phosphotyrosine-related signaling changes that occurred with c-Met knockdown in a glioblastoma cell line expressing ΔEGFR and in parental cells. Notably, phosphorylation of STAT3, a master regulator of the mesenchymal GBM subtype and a known target of ∆EGFR, also decreased when c-Met was silenced in these cells, suggesting that the signals from these receptors converge on STAT3. Using a STAT3 inhibitor, WP1193, we showed that STAT3 inhibition decreased HGF mRNA expression in ΔEGFR-expressing glioblastoma cells. Consistent with these findings, constitutively active STAT3 partially restored HGF expression and anchorage-independent growth of c-Met knockdown glioblastoma cells that overexpressed ΔEGFR. We found that higher levels of HGF and c-Met expression associated with the mesenchymal GBM subtype. Taken together, these results suggest that the activity of c-Met regulates the expression of HGF in glioblastoma cells, that ∆EGFR feeds positively into this autocrine loop, that signaling of the two receptors together modulate HGF expression via STAT3, and that the HGF/c-Met axis may therefore be a good additional target for therapy of mesenchymal GBM tumors.


glioblastoma, c-Met, HGF, ΔEGFR, STAT3