Neuron Glia Biology

A role for ion channels in glioma cell invasion

a1 Department of Neurobiology and Civitan International Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA

Article author query
mcferrin mb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
sontheimer h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Many cells, including neuronal and glial progenitor cells, stem cells and microglial cells, have the capacity to move through the extracellular spaces of the developing and mature brain. This is particularly pronounced in astrocyte-derived tumors, gliomas, which diffusely infiltrate the normal brain. Although a significant body of literature exists regarding signals that are involved in the guidance of cells and their processes, little attention has been paid to cell-shape and cell-volume changes of migratory cells. However, extracellular spaces in the brain are very narrow and represent a major obstacle that requires cells to dynamically regulate their volume. Recent studies in glioma cells show that this involves the secretion of Cl and K+ with water. Pharmacological inhibition of Cl channels impairs their ability to migrate and limits tumor progression in experimental tumor models. One Cl-channel inhibitor, chlorotoxin, is currently in Phase II clinical trials to treat malignant glioma. This article reviews our current knowledge of cell-volume changes and the role of ion channels during the migration of glioma cells. It also discusses evidence that supports the importance of channel-mediated cell-volume changes in the migration of immature neurons and progenitor cells during development. New unpublished data is presented, which demonstrates that Cl and K+ channels involved in cell shrinkage localize to lipid-raft domains on the invadipodia of glioma cells and that their presence might be regulated by trafficking of these proteins in and out of lipid rafts.

(Published Online December 16 2005)

Key Words: Cell migration; chloride; potassium; cell volume; chlorotoxin.

c1 Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D., Department of Neurobiology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1119 6th Ave S., CIRC 545, USA. phone: +1 205 975 5805; fax: +1 205 975 5518. email: