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Edward H. Oldfield and Marsha J. Merrill


Pituitary adenomas occasionally undergo infarction, apoplexy, which often destroys much of the tumor. It is well known that apoplexy can be precipitated by several acute factors, including cardiac surgery, other types of surgery, trauma, insulin infusion, and stimulation with administration of hypothalamic releasing factors.


The prior focus on mechanisms underlying pituitary apoplexy has been on these acute events. Less attention has been given to the endogenous features of pituitary tumors that make them susceptible to spontaneous infarction, despite that most pituitary apoplexy occurs in the absence of a recognized precipitating event. The authors examine intrinsic features of pituitary adenomas that render them vulnerable to apoplexy—features such as high metabolic demand, paucity of angiogenesis, and sparse vascularity, qualities that have previously not been linked with apoplexy—and argue that it is these features of adenomas that underlie their susceptibility to spontaneous infarction. The sensitivity of freshly cultured pituitary adenomas to hypoglycemia is assessed.


Adenomas have high metabolic demand, limited angiogenesis, and reduced vessel density compared with the normal gland. Pituitary adenoma cells do not survive in the presence of reduced or absent concentrations of glucose.


The authors propose that the frequent ischemic infarction of pituitary adenomas is the product of intrinsic features of these tumors. These endogenous qualities create a tenuous balance between high metabolic demand and marginal tissue perfusion. Thus, the tumor is vulnerable to spontaneous infarction or to acute ischemia by any event that acutely alters the balance between tumor perfusion and tumor metabolism, events such as acute systemic hypotension, abruptly decreased supply of nutrients, hypoglycemia with insulin administration, or increase in the tumor's metabolic demand due to administration of hypothalamic releasing factors. It may be possible to take advantage of these intrinsic features of pituitary adenomas by using aspects of this vulnerability for development of new approaches for treatment.

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Marsha J. Merrill and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ Overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is associated with several central nervous system (CNS) diseases and abnormalities, and is often postulated as a causative factor and promising therapeutic target in these settings. The authors' goal was to reassess the contribution of VEGF to the biology and pathology of the CNS.

The authors review the literature relating to the following aspects of VEGF: 1) the biology of VEGF in normal brain; 2) the involvement of VEGF in CNS disorders other than tumors (traumatic and ischemic injuries, arteriovenous malformations, inflammation); and 3) the role of VEGF in brain tumor biology (gliomas and the associated vasogenic edema, and hemangioblastomas).

The authors conclude the following: first, that VEGF overexpression contributes to the phenotype associated with many CNS disorders, but VEGF is a reactive rather than a causative factor in many cases; and second, that use of VEGF as a therapeutic agent or target is complicated by the effects of VEGF not only on the cerebral vasculature, but also on astrocytes, neurons, and inflammatory cells. In many cases, therapeutic interventions targeting the VEGF/VEGF receptor axis are likely to be ineffective or even detrimental. Clinical manipulation of VEGF levels in the CNS must be approached with caution.

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Gregory R. Criscuolo, Marsha J. Merrill and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ The nature of vascular permeability factor (VPF) activity derived from serum-free conditioned medium containing cultured human malignant glial tumors has been further investigated. A 1000-fold purification was accomplished by sequential heparin-Sepharose affinity chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography gel filtration chromatography steps. Vascular permeability factor activity falls into a molecular weight range of 41,000 to 56,000 D. Activity is bound to hydroxylapatite, carboxymethyl-Sepharose, phenyl-Sepharose, and heparin-Sepharose, whereas little or no activity was bound to diethylaminoethyl-Sephacel. Vascular permeability factor activity is trypsin-and pepsin-sensitive but is unaffected by treatment with ribonuclease A. This suggests that VPF is a hydrophobic, positively charged (cationic) polypeptide with a potentially biologically significant affinity for heparin. As most proteins are negatively charged (anionic) and have no affinity for heparin, a significant advantage was gained by performing these purification steps.

The activity of VPF is not inhibited by coinjection of conditioned medium with soybean trypsin inhibitor; or hexadimethrine (both known antagonists of tissue plasminogen activator, Hageman factor, and serum kallikrein); or aprotinin (an antagonist of both plasmin and tissue kallikrein); or phenylmethanesulfonyl fluoride (a serine esterase (elastase) inhibitor); or pepstatin-A (an acid protease inhibitor which inactivates vascular permeability-inducing leukokinins). These data, together with the fact that VPF is produced and released into serum-free media, provides substantial evidence against it being one of the more commonly known serum-derived permeability mediators. Treatment with dithiothreitol inhibited VPF activity, indicating the presence of at least one essential disulfide bond in this molecule. Inhibition by dexamethasone of VPF expression in cultured malignant glial cells appears to be selective. Dexamethasone-induced inhibition of VPF was dose-responsive and was not associated with a parallel inhibition of cellular protein synthesis as determined by tritiated leucine incorporation into trichloroacetic acid-precipitable material. Inclusion of dexamethasone in the culture medium was not associated with altered cell viability or cell number.

A series of in vivo studies confirmed the inhibition of VPF activity in test animals pretreated with dexamethasone. This steroid-induced inhibition was partially reversed by treatment of test animals with actinomycin D prior to exposure to dexamethasone. The latter finding suggests that dexamethasone exerts its inhibitory action by induction of de novo protein synthesis.

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Marsha J. Merrill, Nancy A. Edwards and Russell R. Lonser


Central nervous system hemangioblastomas are the most common manifestation of von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, an autosomal dominant tumor suppressor syndrome that results in loss of VHL protein function and continuous upregulation of hypoxia-inducible factors. These tumors are composed of neoplastic stromal cells and abundant vasculature. Stromal cells express markers consistent with multipotent embryonically arrested hemangioblasts, which are precursors for hematopoietic and vascular lineages. Notch receptors are transmembrane signaling molecules that regulate multiple developmental processes including hematopoiesis and vasculogenesis. To investigate the importance of notch signaling in the development of VHL disease–associated CNS hemangioblastomas, the authors examined the presence of the four notch receptors and downstream notch effectors in this setting.


The authors used surgical specimens obtained from confirmed VHL-associated hemangioblastomas. Immunohistochemical analysis for the four notch receptors and the downstream effectors was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections. Western blot analysis for HES1 was performed on frozen specimens.


All four notch receptors are present in hemangioblastomas. NOTCH1 and NOTCH4 receptors were widely and prominently expressed in both the stromal and vascular cells, NOTCH2 receptor expression was limited to primarily stromal cells, and NOTCH3 receptor expression was limited to vascular cells. All 4 receptors displayed a nuclear presence. Immunohistochemical analysis also demonstrated that downstream notch effectors, HES1 and HES5, were uniformly expressed in tumor stromal and vascular cells, but HES3, HEY1, and HEY2 were not. Strong HES1 expression was confirmed by Western blot analysis.


The presence of all four notch receptors and downstream effector molecules suggests that the notch signaling pathway plays a critical role in the maintenance of the undifferentiated pluripotent phenotype of these tumors and in the associated vascular response. Moreover, the prominent expression of notch receptors in VHL-associated CNS hemangioblastomas reveals a new and possibly potent therapeutic target.

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Walter A. Hall, Marsha J. Merrill, Stuart Walbridge and Richard J. Youle

✓ Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and transferrin receptor levels were determined in 14 intracranial neoplasms (four glioblastomas multiforme, four medulloblastomas, four ependymomas, one cerebellar astrocytoma, and one acoustic neurinoma) and in four samples of “normal” brain tissue. A competitive radioreceptor assay with 125I-epidermal growth factor and 125I-transferrin was performed using the primitive neuroectodermal tumor-derived TE-671 tissue-culture cell line as a standard. Epidermal growth factor receptors were present on TE-671 cells, all four ependymomas, and two of the four glioblastomas multiforme. The number of EGFR's per cell for ependymomas were estimated to range from 1000 to 6000. Transferrin receptors were detected on TE-671 cells, two of the four medulloblastomas, and one of the four glioblastomas multiforme. A cell surface binding assay, performed directly on the rat ependymal cell monolayer, was also analyzed.

The identification of EGFR's on ependymomas and TR's on medulloblastomas suggests that malignant central nervous system tumors that spread by cerebrospinal fluid pathways may be treatable by intrathecal antibody-toxin conjugates. The presence of EGFR's on all of the ependymomas may reflect a role of the receptor in the malignant phenotype of this tumor.

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Edjah K. Nduom, Chunzhang Yang, Marsha J. Merrill, Zhengping Zhuang and Russell R. Lonser


The astrocytic contribution to the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in metastatic and primary malignant brain tumors is not well understood. To better understand the vascular properties associated with metastatic and primary malignant brain tumors, the authors systematically analyzed the astrocytic component of the BBB in brain neoplasms.


Twelve patients who underwent resection of metastatic or primary brain neoplasms (4 metastatic lesions, 2 low-grade astrocytomas, 2 anaplastic astrocytomas, and 4 glioblastoma multiforme) were included. Clinical, MRI, operative, histopathological and immunohistochemical (glial fibrillary acidic protein [GFAP], CD31, and aquaporin 4 [AQ4]) findings were analyzed.


Intratumoral regions of MRI enhancement corresponded with breakdown of the normal astrocyte–endothelial cell relationship in the BBB in metastatic deposits and malignant gliomas. Metastases demonstrated lack of perivascular GFAP and AQ4 on CD31-positive intratumoral vessels. At the metastasis-brain interface, normalization of GFAP and AQ4 staining associated with intraparenchymal vessels was observed. Intratumoral vasculature in enhancing regions of high-grade gliomas revealed gaps in GFAP and AQ4 staining consistent with disintegration of the normal astrocyte–endothelial cell association in the BBB. Intratumoral vasculature in low-grade and nonenhancing regions of high-grade gliomas maintained the normal astrocyte–endothelial cell relationship seen in an intact BBB, with GFAP- and AQ4-positive glial processes that were uniformly associated with the CD31-positive vasculature.


Regions of MRI enhancement in metastatic and primary malignancies correspond to areas of breakdown of the physiological astrocyte–endothelial cell relationship of the BBB, including loss of normal perivascular astrocytic architecture on GFAP and AQ4 immunohistochemistry. Nonenhancing areas are associated with preservation of the normal astrocyte–endothelial cell relationship of the intact BBB.

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Jeffrey N. Bruce, Gregory R. Criscuolo, Marsha J. Merrill, Ross R. Moquin, J. Bob Blacklock and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ Serum-free conditioned medium derived from confluent monolayer cultures of malignant human astroglial tumors contains a substance that rapidly increases capillary vascular permeability after intradermal injection into guinea pigs. Accumulation of vascular permeability factor (VPF) activity occurs with increasing duration of tumor incubation in vitro. Expression of this activity is inhibited by incubation of cell cultures with cycloheximide or dexamethasone. This VPF is an acid-stable heat-labile macromolecule that is inactivated by trypsin and pepsin and binds immobilized heparin. Activity is retained by ultrafiltration with 30,000-dalton cut-off microconcentrators. Pretreatment of test animals with systemic dexamethasone prior to intradermal injection of VPF diminishes microvascular permeability. Furthermore, VPF activity is not inhibited by antihistamines. Secretion of VPF may cause the vasogenic brain edema that is frequently associated with malignant primary and metastatic intracerebral tumors. Inhibition by dexamethasone of both VPF expression in tissue culture, and VPF activity at the microvascular level in test animals, is in keeping with the known efficacy of this agent in treating the vasogenic edema associated with brain tumors.

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Martin A. Proescholdt, Marsha J. Merrill, Barbara Ikejiri, Stuart Walbridge, Aytac Akbasak, Steven Jacobson and Edward H. Oldfield

Object. Immunotherapy for glioblastoma has been uniformly ineffective. The immunological environment of the brain, with its low expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules and limited access for inflammatory cells and humoral immune effectors due to the blood—brain barrier (BBB), may contribute to the failure of immunotherapy. The authors hypothesize that brain tumors are protected from immune surveillance by an intact BBB at early stages of development. To investigate the immunological characteristics of early tumor growth, the authors compared the host response to a glioma implanted into the brain and into subcutaneous tissue.

Methods. Samples of tumors growing in the brain or subcutaneously in rats were obtained for 7 consecutive days and were examined immunohistochemically for MHC Class I & II molecules, and for CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte markers. Additionally, B7-1 costimulatory molecule expression and lymphocyte-specific apoptosis were examined.

Conclusions. On Days 3 and 4 after implantation, brain tumors displayed significantly lower MHC Class II expression and lymphocytic infiltration (p < 0.05). After Day 5, however, no differences were detected. The MHC Class II expressing cells within the brain tumors appeared to be infiltrating microglia. Minimal B7-1 expression combined with lymphocyte-specific apoptosis were detected in both brain and subcutaneous tumors. Low MHC Class II expression and low lymphocytic infiltration at early time points indicate the importance of the immunologically privileged status of the brain during early tumor growth. These characteristics disappeared at later time points, possibly because the increasing perturbation of the BBB alters the specific immunological environment of the brain. The lack of B7-1 expression combined with lymphocyte apoptosis indicates clonal anergy of glioma-infiltrating lymphocytes regardless of implantation site.