, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 93-104

Astrocytoma and Schwann cells in coculture

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Abstract

Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is the principal intermediate filament protein found in mature astrocytes. Although the exact function of GFAP is poorly understood, it is presumed to stabilize the astrocyte’s cytoskeleton and help in maintaining cell shape. Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that when astrocytes were cocultured with primary Schwann cells (pSCs), astrocytes became hypertrophied and fibrous with intensely positive GFAP staining and segregated Schwann cells (SCs) into pockets. In order to understand the functional role of GFAP in this already established astrocyte-SC coculture model, we generated GFAP-negative cell lines from a GFAP-positive astrocytoma cell line and cocultured both the cell lines with pSCs. Our studies demonstrate that the GFAP-positive cell line put out processes toward the SCs, whereas the GFAP-negative cells did not form processes and the majority of the cells remained round. The most significant and interesting finding of this study, however, is the formation of elaborate processes by SCs when grown in coculture with the astrocytoma cells, unlike SCs cultured alone, which showed their typical bipolar spindle-shaped morphology. The extent of processes did not seem to be dependent on GFAP, since SCs cultured with both the cell lines formed similar processes. This coculture model may be useful in elucidating the factor(s) responsible for the formation of processes by SCs and can be further help in our understanding of the mechanism of morphological transformation of SCs.